Home » Blog » Journal entry 7 – The art of Flow

Journal entry 7 – The art of Flow

macro photography of water waves

This journal entry will be going over what the flow state is, how it affects you, and how you can activate it within your endeavors.

I’ll be quoting from the book “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and many other modern day research papers.

The Art of Flow

So what is the flow state?

The flow state is something that Mihaly describes as a way to achieve happiness in life. He states it is not something that you can get by consciously searching for it.

Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you will cease to be so

J. S. Mill

Many will describe the flow state to be a state of complete and utter focus. It’s something that many of us have experienced before when we’re writing an essay, reading a book, playing our sport, even and quite frequently in things like video games as well.

The flow state usually has qualities and things such as

  • Being completely focused on the task at hand;
  • Forget about yourself, about others, about the world around you;
  • you may lose track of time
  • you’ll start to feel happy and in control over whatever situation you may be in
  • lastly, you’ll become creative and productive.

The flow state is something many high-level athletes and professionals of any field could say as being ‘in the zone’. You stop enforcing actions of things, you stop thinking about what may come next, stop resisting what you’re body wants to do and the body and mind become one.

You’re just present, completely within the moment.

So how can you reach this state of happiness when it’s always elusive every time you try to recognize it?

What makes flow?

Flow state occurs when you have the right mix of difficulty within your said environment and the right neurochemical factors being produced that will then flip on the switch of what feels like perfect focus.

The ‘environment’ is based on multiple factors

This is the flow model. That flow state is there at the top right, where you’re not too anxious, not bored, not fully in control but not out of control. A point where you have to make effort to focus but its not out of your area of expertise.

Athletes experience this flow state often because fortunately all these factors come pretty naturally whenever you’re in a competitive scene with highly intense moments, a student on crunch time, or an artist basically consumed by their canvas.

But feeling focused, and being in the flow state are drastically different. If you’re trying to be able to flick the switch of focus into flow state. It is best to prime your brain with the right neurochemicals.

These chemicals are

  • Dopamine – Helps sharpen our focus, when active within our system it helps filter useful information from everything else
    • Dopamine is also responsible for our feelings of engagement, excitement, and desire to explore
    • When you first enter flow state, dopamine floods your brain
  • Norepinephrine – Helps us maintain focus and boost our performance, this is the stuff that gives us the sensation of physical energy by speeding up our heart rate, muscle tension, and respiration
  • Anandamide – Boost creative thinking and can help make unique decisions
  • Endorphins – helps us push our limits to break barriers, lets us ignore sensations of discomfort and feel generally positive, they release pain and induce pleasure
  • Serotonin – Helps feel focused, less anxious, lets us be more emotionally stable, at the end of flow state, serotonin fills the brain producing an almost ‘after glow’ effect

Alone each chemical formula is very interesting what they can do, but when they all come together, they become a perfect mix for augmenting our performance to a new level in whatever you may be doing. So if you can actively engage the production of these chemicals you can greatly enhance your chances of getting into that optimal state.

How to get into flow

From what Ive been doing recently I’ve noticed I’ve been able to get into the flow state easier, and I believe its from my morning habits almost priming my brain with the chemicals needed for flow state for the rest of the day.

  1. Eliminate External distractions
    • It has been proven by research that in order to reach flow state you cannot be distracted. By anything. Flow state can take a good 10-15 minutes to get into, but once you leave and get knocked out, it can take another 15-20 to fully be immersed back into said flow state.
    • Put your phone away, leave it on silent, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, music without words to limit any possible distractions.
  2. Eliminate Internal distractions
    • In the mornings it is the best time to prime your brain for the rest of the day.
    • This can be done by working out in the mornings
      • It will increase your Cortisol which is a hormone that keeps you awake and alert. With the assistance of a good Circadian rhythm your body is primed to workout in the mornings and start your day with improved attention, visual learning, and decision making.
    • Morning meditation
      • Meditation almost seems to go hand and hand with flow state. The whole point of it all is to get into a state of immense concentration, clarity, and removes normal mental obstacles that can distract you such as stress, worry, self-doubt, all the things you make an effort to dispose of during meditation, disappears the same way in flow state.
    • Journal every morning and evening
      • Journaling just like meditation, will help you just rid your mind of weight that doesnt need to be there throughout your day, it allows you to put some of your thoughts on paper instead of them staying within your head. It will prepare you for a goodnights rest and a day of clarity ahead of you.
  3. Protien
    • Healthy body means a healthy mind. Of course enacting on all healthy eating habits, but one supplement is very important and that is Protein. Protien is a source that will help you prime your brain for focus for the day, and assist you in achieving that flow state.
      • Protein – Eating protein raises the levels of amino acids like Tryptophan and Tyrosine which is basically the green light to your brain to start production of Norepinephrine and Dopamine

Closing remarks

The flow state is something some will call psuedoscience, they might say it is just intense focus. But the widespread shared feeling of flow state is always described as something different than focus, when I focus, I have to focus, when I’m in flow its almost like I get to take a backseat and just let my body handle what it knows how to do.

My mornings start at 3:50, out of the door by 4 straight to the gym.

I usually get back anywhere from 6-8 depending on the day and things involved with the workout. When I get home I leave my phone in the car and do a 5-10 minute walk just to cool down and relax.

From there it is a protein shake, shower, 4 eggs for breakfast, meditate, journal, write or research until 12-1, then I have the rest of my day to do whatever I feel, I don’t have the stress of when I’m going to workout, when I have to get stuff done, or even when I’m going to sleep because when I know when 8:30-9 comes around I’m going to be journaling and getting ready for bed to do it all again.

Flow state is something that you feel, something you recognize post experience of it and say “I don’t really recall how I did all that but I was doing really good.” That is because your present, not focusing on the end goal, not focusing on what happened, but you were in the moment right along with the experience.

There will be links to the resources used at the bottom of the page.

I hope you have a great day, get 1% better today

Be as present as possible.

Talk again soon.


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