Flow State & How to Enter it!
Firstly, what is a flow state?
The flow state happens when you are wholly absorbed in your task. You feel ‘in the zone.’ Your perception of time changes. You are also focused and highly creative.
Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes it as an “…optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” He says that flow is “…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Nothing else matters when we are in a flow state. We are performing at our highest capacity, and we are enjoying it.
How can flow state help you?
Being in flow state will help you:
- Enhance productivity
- Achieve your goals faster
- Improve your skill levels
- Be more accomplished
- Feel more inspired and creative
- Have more time
How do you know you are in a flow state?
Mihály and fellow researchers have interviewed over 8000 people who enjoyed their work. From blind nuns to Himalayan climbers. Interviewees came from a wide variety of professions.
They identified seven conditions that are present when a person is in the flow. These are as follows:
- You experience an intense focus that leads to a sense of ecstasy and clarity.
- You know what to do from one moment to the next.
- The feedback you get is immediate.
- Even when difficult you know that what you need to do is possible to do
- Your sense of time disappears.
- You forget yourself.
- You feel part of something more substantial.
How can you enter flow state?
You are more likely to enter a flow state when you are doing something that you are passionate about. The easiest way to enter flow is when you challenge yourself while using your best skills.
You can also enter a flow state when you are in a state of what Mihály terms ‘Arousal.’ Flow state is when you are highly-challenged. Your skills are not at their highest but the task excites you. You can enter a flow state and use it to enhance your skills.
A state of control is when you have the skills and feel confident, but you don’t feel excited by or challenged by your task. To move to a state of flow from here, you need to increase the challenge.
The keys to entering a flow state are to feel excited and challenged by your task. If you have the skills then great, however, you can also use flow state to enhance your skills. If you want to enter flow, you need to be willing to challenge yourself and learn.
If you are bored or uninterested in the task, you will not be able to find flow. To get to flow from this state, you must find a way to make the task challenging and interesting.
How can connecting with nature help you enter flow state?
I am a big fan of letting nature help us find our flow and find our best selves. I experienced this week. After spending the last five months traveling in cities, I was craving basking in some trees. After being in the mountains of Guatemala for less than a week, I feel rejuvenated.
My writer’s block vanished in the first 24 hours. I started writing my manuscript I have been thinking about writing for months. I re-rejuvenated a gratitude journal with beautiful patterns that have been in the making for months, just sitting there waiting for some inspiration to appear.
This is not just my thing either. Researchers have found that people feel physically healthier, have a greater sense of well-being when we live next to the coast. Contact with water also generates a greater sense of awe, makes us feel happier, calmer and more creative.
Japanese forest bathing, which is merely the act of walking through the woods, has been found to boost our immune systems as well as creativity, reduce stress and lower blood pressure. These are all helpful when we are trying to enter flow.
Let’s chat! How can we turn everyday chores into flow states?
I would love to hear your comments on this one. Mihály’s mission is to help people put more flow into their daily lives. Most of what we do is mundane. For example laundry, shower, going to the bathroom, cleaning, etc. How can we make these tasks more exciting and experience them in flow?
I have thought of a few ideas to add challenge and skill, but please share yours!
- Do your task with the opposite hand, e.g., brushing your teeth, using the computer mouse.
- Change the order of your tasks every day.
- Practice another language. Audio-books are great!
- Dance to some music while you clean.
- Focus on each movement of your body. Be mindful of your actions.
What else can you think of? What are your experiences with flow states? Please comment below.
To learn more about flow states watch this video by the master himself, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi: