What is flow state and how do you reach it?
by Hannah Moss
As a Wellbeing Coach, I want to help you find your flow, so you can make meaningful changes in your life and become a better you. But, what does it mean to ‘find your flow’? What is flow state and why is it so important for your wellbeing? Let’s dive in…
What is flow state?
According to Headspace, “Popularized by positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, flow state describes a feeling where, under the right conditions, you become fully immersed in whatever you are doing.”
Flow state is more commonly described as being ‘in the zone’ and the person experiencing this usually has energised focus and total enjoyment of the task or process they’re involved in.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Examples of flow state
So, when have you found yourself in a state of flow? You might not think it happens very often, but when was the last time you were so absorbed in something that you lost track of time? When you came out of it, lifted your head or stopped doing that activity and realised you’d been somewhere else, almost like being in a trance?
Of course, each of us can experience this differently and an activity that takes one person into a flow state might not have the same effect for the next person. Also, just because you entered a state of flow doing something one day, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll enter the same state when you next do that same activity. There are so many factors that can influence whether we reach a flow state or not.
Here are some examples of the kinds of activities that can help us enter a state of flow:
- Playing sports
- Doing jigsaw puzzles
- Doing crossword puzzles
- Playing board games
My personal flow state examples
Personally, I find writing is the activity that most quickly takes me into a state of flow. Of course, it does depend on the type of writing I’m doing, why I’m doing it, who it’s being written for and how I feel about the content of what I’m writing.
Flow state in writing
But, one recent example is when I wrote the first chapter of Living With Lenny. I had actually carved out some time to start writing the copy for my new website, but when I sat down to do this, I realised I wasn’t in the right headspace. The task felt too onerous and I couldn’t concentrate on what I needed to do. So, instead, I practised some self-care activities. I did some yoga and meditation, pulled an angel card and went for a walk along the seafront. When I came back, I sat down to start writing and what came out was this first chapter.
I felt like I needed to express some of what I’d been going through and, once I started, it just flowed out of me. I kept writing until it was finished. I experienced a whole range of emotions as I was writing, but generally felt very calm and collected and was pleased with the end result. I also hardly made any typing errors – which is unusual for me, as I’m usually rushing to try and get the words out as quickly as my brain is thinking them!
What I realised after I’d finished writing this chapter, was that these words needed to come out of me first, before I could turn my attention to the very different style of writing required for my web copy. And that’s exactly what I was able to focus on next.
Flow state in other activities
Other activities that help me reach a state of flow include crossword puzzles, singing (in certain situations) and dancing. I also run and swim regularly and sometimes get into flow with these, but mostly I’m either thinking through various issues or concentrating on counting lengths!
What are the benefits of flow state?
The immediate benefits of entering a state of flow are fairly obvious. It helps us switch off part of our brain and quieten the ego, which can be very helpful if we have a tendency to worry or overthink things. It can help to increase mindfulness and reduce anxiety. It can also be a very productive state to be in, as we’re totally absorbed in the task at hand.
As Brian Tracy explains in his book Eat That Frog, “Really successful people are those who get themselves into this state far more often than the average person.”
How can finding flow enrich your life?
But, taking it further than this, I also believe your life can be in a flow state at a much higher, more generic level than simply being absorbed in one particular task. When you find your flow in life, amazing things can start to happen. Opportunities can arise that didn’t seem to exist before. Synchronicities start appearing everywhere you look. Things happen seamlessly, without any challenge or conflict. Everything just seems to flow.
This is what Adriene Mishler (of Yoga With Adriene fame) is referring to when she says, “The more we are able to recognize and move in our flow state, the more capable we are of aligning our attention and energy with the best parts of ourselves, and the person that we aspire to be.”
So, finding flow really can be life-changing.
Knowing you’re on the right path
I’ve experienced this flow state in my life several times and, I have to say, it feels pretty amazing! Suddenly you feel like everything’s aligning the way you want it to. You get offers of collaboration from your connections or events you want to attend. People seem to get in touch with just the right words of advice. Great ideas seem to come to you when you least expect them. And messages from your highest self (or your gut or spiritual masters or the angels or whoever you choose to believe in) seem to come through so much clearer than before.
Do you often get a nagging feeling that something’s missing in your life or you’re not following your true purpose? When everything in your life is flowing, it can feel incredibly reassuring that you’re doing the right thing. That you’re on the right path. And it’s so important to listen to your intuition to keep guiding you in the right direction.
This quote from Esther & Jerry Hicks in Money and the Law of Attraction describes this perfectly: “When you let yourself move in the direction of who you’ve become (the fast-flowing river), you feel the ease of going with that flow. And when you turn in opposition to it, you feel the dis-ease of not allowing yourself to go with the flow. And every emotion you feel is about simply that.”
An effortless journey
When we’re in a state of flow, we don’t have to strive so hard to make things happen. We can drop the struggle. Things become much more effortless. We can also gain a lot more clarity and insight into what’s really important to us and what action we need to take to move us in the direction of our goals and dreams. This passage in Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog describes this concept perfectly:
“When you’re in the state of flow, which is the highest human state of performance and productivity, something almost miraculous happens to your mind and emotions. You feel elated and clear. Everything you do seems effortless and accurate. You feel happy and energized. You experience a tremendous sense of calm and increased personal effectiveness.
In the state of flow, you actually function on a higher plane of clarity, creativity, and competence. You are more sensitive and aware. Your insight and intuition guide you and direct you to do and say exactly the right things at the right time. You see the interconnectedness of people and circumstances around you. You often come up with brilliant ideas and insights that enable you to move ahead even more rapidly.”
How can you get into a flow state?
So, by now, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, this flow state sounds amazing, how do I achieve it?!” Well, the first place to start is by identifying those activities that naturally take you into a state of flow. Of course, you can’t be aware you’re in a flow state when you’re actually in it, otherwise you wouldn’t be in a flow state! But you can reflect back on which activities have helped you reach this in the past.
Can you find ways to bring more of these activities into your life? Or to experiment with new activities and hobbies that might help you reach a state of flow? The more often you can get yourself into this state, the easier it will be to experience it in other areas of your life too.
How to find your flow in life
OK, so now that you’ve found ways to get into flow state, how do you expand this so your whole life is in flow? The way I see it, this comes down to identifying your personal values, making sure that everything you do and every decision you make is aligned with those values, and getting clear on your true purpose. Of course, this can be challenging to do on your own and sometimes we need help and support from others to help us work this out.
It’s taken me many years to really get under the bonnet and pick this apart for myself, but I now feel so much clearer and happier. I’ve finally discovered that being a Wellbeing Coach is what I’ve been working towards my whole life and I feel certain that I’m now on the right path. I feel so passionate and confident about this, that doing things that were previously outside my comfort zone, no longer feel nearly as scary.
Helping you find your flow
Identifying your core values and finding your true purpose in life are very meaty, complicated subjects! I’ll be diving into these in more detail in future blog posts.
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about flow state and get guided support to help you find your flow, book a free, no obligation, discovery call with me and let’s dive in!
Ride the wave
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