A Flow State: What it Consists of and How to Enhance It
The flow state comes into being the moment you immerse yourself in an activity or task that leads you to lose track of time. It refers to the pleasure that comes from doing something that makes you forget everything around you – there’s only you and what you’re doing.
It’s a widely-used concept, proposed by the psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihályi in 1975, and it has been used in different fields, especially in positive psychology.
This psychologist believes that the flow state is a “feeling that one’s own abilities are sufficient to face the challenges that are presented to us, an activity directed towards certain goals and regulated by norms that, in addition, offers us clear clues to know if we are doing well. ”
How does the flow state feel?
As well described by this expert, the flow state leads people to experience a sense of pleasure and liberation while engaging in an activity that generally stimulates their abilities and talents. In addition to generating this distortion of time, this fluidity exacerbates creativity and productivity.
At this point, you should already know what we’re talking about. However, we going to give you some tips that will lead you to better identify the times that you’ve reached this state:
- You focus your attention on the activity you are doing.
- You feel a high degree of concentration.
- Whatever activity you do, you feel that it is rewarding and enjoyable.
- Time passes without you noticing.
- You feel that you are the best person to do that activity.
- You have the feeling that even though the effort put into the task is not very much, you still do it better than anyone else.
- There’s no room for fatigue or mental exhaustion.
What are the benefits of reaching the flow state?
Although, up to now, it seems that the flow state can only be achieved in activities that generate interest, it turns out that this isn’t necessarily so. The greatest benefit of learning to reach the flow state lies in enhancing our state of concentration in any activity. It all lies in letting that level of concentration control our minds.
A clear example of this are elite athletes who, in fact, have been participants in various studies on the manifestation of this state. This type of people must achieve such a state of concentration that it allows them to obtain good results through their performance.
Footballers, for example, feel that 90 minutes on the pitch are so few that they have to take advantage of it to score goals, leaving aside the opponent and even forgetting about the supporters who are shouting from the stands.
In addition to training your mind to concentrate and perform the proposed tasks more efficiently, you will also be able to obtain other benefits such as:
- Improving job and personal satisfaction
- Increasing your self-motivation
- Decreasing anxiety
- Raising your self-esteem
Tips to enhance the flow state
You have to start with the fact that it’s pretty difficult for anyone to enjoy something that they don’t like to do. This state is related to people’s well-being and happiness. For example, it’s difficult for these feelings to occur in a person who hates writing and is forced to do so.
This person won’t feel satisfied with the task that they’re doing. On the contrary, the only thing they will feel is stressed, frustrated, and anxious to finish something that they think is taking up their time without any reason.
So, the first thing you must do to reach the flow state is to do something that, in some way or another, piques your interest.
Set real goals
The most important thing when setting goals, in any area of life, is that they are real, achievable and specific. So, to reach the flow state, set easy-to-reach goals while doing your activities.
For example, if you are learning to play the piano, aim to learn an easy song, but one that tests your skills. This will make it easier to flow.
If, on the other hand, you set a goal for yourself to play a difficult song while you’re just a beginner, the only thing you’ll do is stress and frustrate yourself by not being able to reach your unrealistic goal. In this way, it will be impossible to flow and maintain concentration while enjoying this activity.
So, make sure that your goal isn’t too easy and leads you to get bored. The idea is that you set and achieve goals at an appropriate level for your abilities.
Choose a nice place
Without a doubt, carrying out our daily activities in a pleasant place facilitates their enjoyment. Well, this is also a determining factor when it comes to reaching the flow state. Make sure it’s a place without distractions and with conditions that allow you to concentrate and enjoy what you’re doing.
In addition to choosing a quiet place, it will be helpful to identify when you are most productive during the day. In this way, you’ll be able to carry out the activities at a more fruitful time and reach the flow state more easily.
Focus on maintaining attention
Focus on keeping your attention on your activity without being distracted. But stay calm, it’s quite normal if you lose focus the first few times; the idea is that you advance over time and learn to do the activity well.
Tune your skill level to the complexity level
As we mentioned before, it’s very important that your level of skill mastery is in tune with the activity you’re going to do. In this way, you will feel fuller and more satisfied with each achievement.
Adding a bit of complexity to each goal will keep the motivation going and the flow state easier to reach.
Seek satisfaction in the process and not in its results
Regardless of the end result, the ideal thing is that you enjoy the learning process and your progress at mastering the activity. That is the flow state: enjoying what you do without having to think about the end result. The idea is that you focus on learning, improving, and feeling satisfied with each bit of progress, not on pressurizing yourself to comply with some stereotype or what other people need.
Meditate or practice Mindfulness
Although much more remains to be investigated, different authors have looked at the relationship between mindfulness and the state of flow through different studies, the former as a means that helps you to experience the latter.
Meditation, like mindfulness, has outstanding benefits in this regard. One study revealed that meditating can modify the neural network that is associated with mental distraction, thereby stimulating regions of the brain that reduce distracting activity.
It’s time to stimulate the flow state
Now that you know more about the flow state, you will surely have identified times you have reached it. The best and most important thing now is that you realize that you have the necessary tools to stimulate this state. Remember that the general rule is to enjoy the activity that you’ve chosen to do. By doing so, your will to concentrate and improve your skills will start to emerge.It might interest you...
- Mesurado, Belén. (2010). La experiencia de Flow o Experiencia Óptima en el ámbito educativo. Revista latinoamericana de psicología.
- Pascale, P. (2005). ¿Dónde está la creatividad? Una aproximación al modelo de sistemas de Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Arte, Individuo Y Sociedad, 17, 63 – 86. Recuperado a partir de https://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/ARIS/article/view/ARIS0505110063A
- López-Torres, Miguel, & Torregrosa, Miguel, & Roca, Josep (2007). CARACTERÍSTICAS DEL “FLOW”, ANSIEDAD Y ESTADO EMOCIONAL, EN RELACIÓN CON EL RENDIMIENTO DE DEPORTISTAS DE ELITE. Cuadernos de Psicología del Deporte, 7(1),25-44.[fecha de Consulta 30 de Enero de 2021]. ISSN: 1578-8423. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=2270/227017553002
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- Palmi, Joan, & Solé, Silvia (2016). Intervenciones basadas en Mindfulness (Atención Plena) en Psicología del Deporte. Revista de Psicología del Deporte, 25(1),147-155.[fecha de Consulta 30 de Enero de 2021]. ISSN: 1132-239X. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=2351/235143645019
- Judson A. Brewer, Patrick D. Worhunsky, Jeremy R. Gray, Yi-Yuan Tang, Jochen Weber, Hedy Kober. Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec 2011, 108 (50) 20254-20259; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1112029108