According to the old saying, time flies when you’re having fun. The same thing happens when you’re in a state of flow. This is because being in the zone or the flow state is one of the most enjoyable states for a human being.
Flow state is the term that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly describes in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”. In his book he describes flow as an experience where you lose yourself in what you’re doing, and you feel totally immersed and engaged.
Benefits of a Flow State
Being in the zone is associated with numerous benefits. Some of these include feelings of well-being, more life satisfaction and general overall happiness. Work studies have found that flow is linked to increased productivity and motivation as well as overall job satisfaction.
In flow your brain functions differently. Brainwaves move from the beta waves of normal waking consciousness down to the slower alpha or theta waves more associated with daydreaming and sleep. Research has also found that there are changes in brain activity during flow state such as increased dopamine levels that are associated with enjoyment and motivation.
Once you experience the exhilaration of flow for yourself, you’ll definitely want more of these moments. So that’s why we’re going to explore how to find your flow state today.
The advantages of flow:
1. Boosts your mood.
Being in flow boosts your mood by giving you a general sense of well-being, happiness and fulfillment. This enhanced sense of well-being can carry on throughout your day, making everything you do more pleasant and enjoyable.
- Helps to manage stress.
In flow, you are totally engaged in what you are doing. In this focused state you don’t have time for anything else, especially things that could cause you to be stressed or anxious. So, to calm yourself down after a busy day, instead of flopping down in front of the TV, challenge yourself with something rewarding, like working on a hobby that takes your total attention. You’ll probably notice you’re in a much calmer state when you finish for the evening.
3. Build your confidence.
Entering flow state requires a substantial mastery of a certain skill. So, as you seek to enter the zone, you’ll also be working on improving your skills in that area. This will lead to a deeper understanding of your strengths and how to maximize them, which leads to more confidence. As you persist, you’ll find it a lot easier to believe in yourself and your abilities.
4. Enhance your performance.
Research shows that flow can enhance performance in a number of different areas such as teaching, learning, athletics and artistic creativity. When you’re at your peak, you’re more likely to excel because you’re working with passion and purpose.
A few activities that can promote flow
Depending on your approach, almost anything you do can give you feelings of flow. If you’re just starting out, the following are a few areas to explore.
- Express your creativity through art or literature.
You can try creative activities such as painting, sculpture, dance, or acting. You can also begin by writing articles or short stories. Choose a medium that you find exciting.
2. Practice a sport or activity.
One of the easiest ways to get into flow is while practicing a sport or activity. It can also help you lead a more active life. There are lots you can choose from, such as joining the office softball team, signing up for a volleyball league with a community group or joining an activity like a martial arts class. You can train to compete at the Olympics or simply to complete a 5K run for your favorite charity.
3. Exercise your brain.
Another easy way to enter the flow state is when you are totally engrossed in studying something you’re interested in. Find a subject that interests you so you can add to your knowledge and skills. Take business courses that you need for your job or study subjects just for the pleasure of learning. Another way to stretch yourself is to teach what you know, maybe at a nearby senior center or online academy.
4. Find work those matters (to you).
According to a 2020 Gallup poll, only 36% of U.S. employees feel that they are fully engaged at work. Find something that ensures you’re one of them. Look for work that you feel is meaningful and then think about how your efforts are helping to create that meaning.
If you’re struggling to figure out work that matters to you, in my book, Mindful Mastery: Find Focus, Get Unstuck, and Drop Into the Peak Performance Zone, I walk you through a process that can help you identify what’s most important to you and the steps needed to align your life with your purpose.
More Tips for Finding Flow State
Flow is a skill you can develop with practice. The following are some ideas of how to develop this skill.
1. Push yourself out of our comfort zone.
Flow usually happens when you’re doing something that’s challenging, but within your reach. This means you want to work at something that stretches your abilities, but you feel is achievable. This means you’ll need to develop an accurate sense of your capabilities so you can aim high without overwhelming yourself.
2. Set specific goals.
Having a specific goal or outcome is essential to entering the flow states. This is because goal setting forces you to develop plans for reaching your target, further focusing your mind on the task at hand. To maximize your efforts, be sure that you write down your goals using precise details and dates.
3. Limit distractions.
Getting into the zone requires your full attention. If possible, close the door to your office. While working on entering the flow state, take a break from your phone and other devices. Focus on doing one thing at a time.
4. Enjoy the journey into flow.
Cultivating flow does more than deliver positive results, it helps transform your life. As you move through your journey, remember to savor the trip.
Use These Tips for Finding Your Flow State
Hopefully these tips will encourage you to spend more time on activities that bring you happiness. By focusing on these types of activities, it is much more likely you’ll be able to enter flow state more often. This will help you enter into a loop of activity that encourages a state of flow and will ultimately make your life more satisfying and enable you to achieve more.