An individual is said to be in a flow state when he is completely focused on a certain task. When an individual is said to be “in flow”, he might not notice the passage of time and only concentrate on the task at hand.
What Is Flow State?
A flow state defines a state where an individual is entirely focused on the activity at hand. He is diverting all of his attention onto the activity and is not thinking about himself or about the results of his performances.
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This concept came from positive psychology [the study of elements that helps humans do better]. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was a major influence in the coining of this term.
The Characteristics Of Flow State
There are certain tasks that encourage the flow state. These tasks might be challenging and rewarding, which means that the person attains a purpose while doing them. The tasks also need to be deep which involves the person spending some energy and time to move forward in the task.
There are several signs as to how you can check if a person is in a flow.
The first one is self-consciousness. The person who is in a flow state is not likely to think about himself, or how another person might see him.
The next one is focus. It is quite difficult to distract a person “in flow”. If an event interrupts him in a flow, he might feel annoyed by it.
Some individuals enjoy the work assigned which encourages them to indulge in it.
Some Examples Of Flow State
Several situations can be seen by which an individual can enter into a state of flow.
The types of activities and triggers vary from one to another, which depends on the fact if the task is enjoyable, interesting, or entertaining. It can range from playing sports, games, reading, doing crafts, solving puzzles to gardening, or playing an instrument.
What Happens To The Brain In A Flow State?
During the flow state, various changes have been observed in the brain. Several studies demonstrated how dopamine plays a major role in it.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that aids feelings of pleasure, motivation, or reward. It also helps to suppress hunger and other somatic sensations. People who are in flow have high dopamine content which explains why they fail to notice when they are tired or hungry.
A mini-review from 2021 argued that the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system of the brain is involved in a state of flow. The person must be highly engaged in an engaging task, during flow, that matches their skills to regulate task engagement properly.
It is not clear if the flow state is the causal agent or if the changes in the brain cause flow, but it might be that both can be true.
Researchers have proposed two theories:
1: The Transient Hypofrontality Hypothesis
This theory states that the executive function declines temporarily, which stops a person from thinking about themselves and getting fully immersed in the activity.
2: Synchronization Theory Of Flow
This theory states how the areas of the brain communicate much better in a flow state. An individual would be able to coordinate his actions better which in turn suggests higher executive functioning.
What Are The Benefits Of Flow State?
Research has suggested that a state of flow is linked to fewer distractions, lesser self-judgment, better performance, greater motivation, and more practice, which allows the person to gain competence and skill.
How Can You Get Into Flow?
People enter flow unconsciously however if a person wants to induce it there are several strategies that one can try.
It is really important to keep in mind that one cannot put themselves into a state of flow. He should create the perfect circumstances and can initiate by reflecting on their previous flow states. They can note down the type of work, the surroundings, and even their mental state at that moment.
It takes some time in order to enter a state of flow, so it will be much easier to use the flow state for longer activities and to block a set period to work.
Distractions make it difficult to enter flow and people have to make sure that they are uninterrupted while working on something.
A small study in 2019, on baseball players in Taiwan, discovered that mindfulness improved their performance and so did their state of flow.
The tasks assigned should not be dull as they might not create a flow state. The individual needs to adjust these tasks to make them more enjoyable or meaningful. They can also break down these tasks into simpler steps.
Positive psychologists hold this as a major part of productivity and hold it beneficial for a psychological well-being. It is impossible to always enter into a flow state but people can achieve it with practice and a few strategies and up their productivity.