What is Flow?

Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who created the concept of flow.

Experiencing “flow” or “being in the zone” is a condition of total happiness and content. Nothing matters. Time has no meaning. You are absorbed in what you do, and your brain is functioning at full capacity.

Flow is defined as an optimal state of consciousness, a state of being where we feel our best and perform our best. Flow increases any ability from creativity to memory to physical performance.

What exactly happens when you experience flow?

Your prefrontal cortex shuts down and a cascade of powerful neurochemicals are produced including dopamine, anandamide, serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphin. These substances are among the most potent performance-enhancing chemicals our body can generate. They lead to more focus, more pattern recognition (the underlying skill in creativity) and massively amplified learning. When you get into Flow, brain waves move from a beta wave, which is a fast-moving wave of waking consciousness down to alpha, a daydreaming mode. Below that is theta, the wave that is present while you’re in REM sleep. Flow takes place on the border between alpha and theta.

To be engaged in a state of flow, several conditions must be met:

  • The activity must be challenging. Not too easy to be boring and not too complicated to cause anxiety.
  • The task has to be active and engaging.
  • The activity has to have clear parameters for success.
  • The motivation for the activity must be coming from within; gaining personal satisfaction and be internally motivating.


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