How to achieve a state of flow?

Imagine for a moment that you are totally engaged and focused on what you are doing and when you finish, hours have passed by without notice. This is what we call being in a state of flow – in other words when you are in your zone.

The term state of flow is described by psychologist Millay Csikszentmihaly as when “…you know what you need to do is possible, even though it’s difficult, and the sense of time disappears. You forget yourself and feel part of something larger”. He goes on to explain that a flow state is achieved through your individual effort and creativity as you intensely participate in an in the moment activity.

A state of flow is usually associated with musicians or sportspeople when they are engrossed in their respective activities. They are in their zone where nothing else matters but the task. They become fully immersed and perform their task to a high standard.

Your brain activity increases during a flow state processing up to 11,000,000 pieces of data per second compared with 50-110 pieces in your normal state. Your brain taps into your subconscious to speed up your data processing to allow you to operate in the zone.

Csikszentmihaly further advises that there are three triggers to achieving a state of flow:

1. You have a clear challenge where you know what to do next.

2. You are provided with instant feedback from that challenge and quickly switch direction in the present moment.

3. You accept and meet a challenge above your skill level.

However, you don’t need to be a musician or athlete to achieve a state of flow. Anyone can achieve happiness through a flow state on a daily basis.

Now that we know what being in a state of flow is, you will be able to recognise that flow involves active activities that achieve your goals seamlessly. However, some people confuse passive activities such as TV watching or reading as helping them achieve a flow state. Yes, while these activities can make time fly and hold your interest, they are considered passive inactivity.

To achieve a productive, flow state opt for participation in active activities where your brain can become stimulated to reach a productive flow state, such as: writing, playing and instrument or working on a presentation.

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