Flow State- What the research says and how to get into a flow state

Time flies, worries melt away, and you’re hyper-focused, energized, and performing at your best. That is the magic of a flow state. 

Today, we’re diving deep into this fascinating phenomenon, exploring what the research says, and sharing 5 proven tips to unlock your own flow state so you can hit your peak performance when you need it most.

Flow state, coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes a mental state of complete absorption and enjoyment in an activity. You’re fully immersed, challenged yet capable, and time seems to warp into a meaningless thing. Studies have linked flow to increased creativity, productivity, and overall well-being.

A study published in “Frontiers in Psychology” investigated the impact of flow on cognitive function. They analyzed data from several studies where participants engaged in flow-inducing activities like rock climbing or painting. The results? Flow states were associated with significant improvements in attention, memory, and problem-solving abilities.

Here’s how to unlock your flow

First, it is important to understand that you cannot always put yourself into a flow state by just willing it into action.

Instead, think more about creating the right circumstances for flow to happen. 

A good place to start is by thinking about previous occasions when you entered a flow state and the factors that surrounded it:

For example:

  • the type of task
  • the environment where you were
  • your mental state at the time
  • Even what you ate or didn’t that day.

Once you have a rough understanding of what allows you to enter flow, you can apply this to other tasks. For example, you might realize that you need a quiet environment or that you work better with background noise in a coffee shop..

A trick I use to be able to replicate flow once I’ve adjusted my surroundings, is that I created a que that helps me remember and slip into the state. . My que is touching my thumb to my first three fingers, think 1, 2, 3.. It sounds a little strange, but think of it just how the famous psychologist Pavlov matched the sound of a bell with food for his famous dog experiment. Any time the dog heard the bell the dog salivated.

I did the same thing with this que. Now, it’s not magic, I have to have my environment the correct based on the task I’m doing, but it helps me remember what it feels like and nudges me into the flow state. Try pairing some sort of que like this the next time you’re in your flow.

Here’s 5 Other strategies to help you get into your flow state:

  1. Make sure you’re Allowing enough time to get into the flow: It takes time to enter a flow state. It’s going to be easier to use flow for longer tasks rather than shorter ones and to block off a set period to work on them.
  2. Minimize interruptions: Distractions and interruptions make entering a flow state more difficult. Make sure you have uninterrupted time to work on something by going somewhere private, turning notifications off on your devices, telling others they will be busy, or blocking out time on your calendar.
  3. Practice mindfulness: The skills that a person uses to become and remain mindful are similar to those involved in a flow state. A small research study of baseball players in Taiwan found that practicing mindfulness improved both performance and flow state in the athletes.
    An easy mindfulness practice is to do Body scan meditation: Focus on each part of your body, starting at your feet and working your way up to your head noticing any sensations without judgment.
  4. Make sure the task is challenging and pushes your limits a bit. Not excessive, but not too easy.
  5. Not all tasks are flow statable: Tasks that are dull, repetitive, or too easy may not induce a flow so dont’ get discourged. Target tasks that are enjoyable, meaningful, or challenging. 

Remember, flow state isn’t a switch you flip on and off. It takes practice and experimentation. But by incorporating these tips and exploring activities you truly enjoy, you can unlock your flow potential and experience peak performance both personally and professionally. So, get out there, explore, and find your flow!

Your move.

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