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Finding out “what is flow” and how we can use it to super boost our mental health.
Guys this is big. What is known as the “flow state” has been called the antidote to anxiety and the secret to happiness.
Those are HUGE claims.
Having done a bunch of research on this topic, and experienced the flow state myself, I can stay that I think those claims are legit.
This this is something you do not want to miss.
What is Flow and How Does It Make Us Feel Happy?
Many times when thinking about self care and mental well-being, we fall into the trap of thinking that relaxation = happiness.
We think that chilling on a beach or not having any stress is the secret key to eternal happiness.
The idea of the flow state contradicts this idea. It says we’ve got things a little backwards.
So What is “Flow”?
Flow or the state of flow was discovered by Hungarian Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
He wanted to do more research on why there are people out there that push themselves to do very difficult things.
Things like climbing mount Everest or being a Gold Medal Olympian.
What he discovered was that these athletes were chasing a “flow state” which was directly tied to feelings of extreme satisfaction, euphoria and even ecstasy.
He discovered that humans are happiest when we are pushing ourselves to our limits.
Like nailing a really difficult piece on the piano
Or finally landing that 360
This state is an almost out of body experience that you get when you’ve become really, REALLY good at something.
Throwing a bunch of balls in the air is practice, juggling is flow.
The Flow State: An Out Of Body Experience
When you’re in flow you feel like your body is just moving on it’s own. It’s like you’re watching yourself perform at a higher level because you don’t feel like you’re the one controlling your body’s movements.
Watching yourself perform at this high level but not feeling the effort or struggle it takes to do that task is what causes an intense feeling of satisfaction and some describe it as ecstasy.
So why is this considered the secret to happiness?
Well, Csikszentmihalyi Talked about how our brains can only process a limited amount of information at a time.
So when you’re in a state of flow, your brain is fully concentrated on that thing and it takes the attention away from other things that your brain might normally be focused on. RH
Your brain cuts off logical thinking to save energy.
Things like paying your bills, problems, insecurities all of that stuff gets pushed away because your brain is totally immersed in this activity that you’re really really good at.
An olympic speed skater participating in the gold medal race doesn’t have time to focus on what he’s going to have for lunch or that fight he had with his girlfriend.
His brain puts all of that stuff on hold so that he can perform at a top level doing this task.
The Flow State Can Help Anxiety
When you suffer from anxiety, what is the one thing that you wish you could do? Turn your brain off.
Which is exactly what flow does. It makes it so you’re fully immersed in something else so you can take a little break from your racing brain.
Most of our anxieties and fears are not about what is happening right now. Flow takes your entire brain, turns off everything except what is happening at this very moment.
How Does It Help Me Feel Happy?
Steven Kotler, a renowned author and entrepreneur mentioned in a speech on this topic that flow is “fundamental”.
“Flow is fundamental to well being and overall mental satisfaction…
People who score off the charts in terms of mental satisfaction and well being are people with the most flow in their lives.” Link Here.
Guys that’s huge. That’s how important this thing is to your mental health.
Steven also talked about the relationship between the flow state and the neurotransmitters that are being released by your brain.
When you’re in a flow state, feel good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are being released and this makes you feel really, REALLY good.
So good that the state of flow is actually very addictive.
Meaning that when we experience a state of flow we will do nearly anything we can to experience that feeling again.
So what does that mean when you have something that you want to feel or get again and you’ll do anything to get it?
Yes! Experiencing a state of flow is going to increase your motivation and sense of life purpose. Which we all know is going to work wonders for your mental health.
When you are seriously DAMN GOOD at something, you will most likely enjoy doing that activity. This will keep you motivated to push your limits so you’re constantly reaching even higher levels of flow.
This is the reason why runners get that “runners high” but someone trying to get into running on January 2nd after months of binge eating gingerbread cookies is going to really hate their lives after a five minute run.
This is not something that you can just experience without putting in a lot of hard work and dedication.
Ok, so how can we really get this state of flow?
Again this information comes from Steven Kotler.
The state of flow can be reaching by pushing your brain to its limits and getting really really good at a task.
That being said, there are three key elements that can help you reach this state of flow.
This is when you have the control to choose what you want to do.
When you get to pick and choose what you focus on, you will be more likely to take an interest and care deeply about that thing.
Most of us are in a position in life where we don’t get to choose what to do.
If you’re a mom, your world is often driven by the needs of your kids.
If you’re an employee, your tasks are often given to you by a boss or manager.
This means you need to structure your life in a way that allows you to have more control.
Take time to do hobbies you like to do, ask your boss for more responsibility etc.
Do what you can to put yourself in the driver seat.
2. Uninterrupted Concentration
You guys know I’m always talking about taking time for yourself!
If you want to reach a flow state, you need to take time away from all distractions and focus solely on the skill you are working on.
Now don’t get me wrong, flow can absolutely be experienced by two people at the same time. Think of two figure skaters performing a routine or trapeze artists.
It’s not that you have to be alone necessarily but you must be alone with the task and anyone else who is involved with the task.
So if you’re practicing or working on a skill, put your phone away and tell your husband to take care of the kids.
No interruptions when you’re flowing!
3. Deep Embodiment
This means that you can’t reach flow by reading about something or having someone tell you about it.
You actually have to go out and do the thing yourself.
So much of our lives are about watching others in their state of flow. We like watching sports or America’s Got Talent. We enjoy going to a comedy show or a concert.
But true happiness is found when we actually get out there and do the things that make us happy.
Just remember this anytime you think about giving up on a hobby or a passion.
I am a huge advocate of putting mental health on the top of your life priority list. This means your hobbies and interests (or anything that causes your flow state) should be right up there at the top as well.
So the takeaway today is to follow your passions and your interests and make them an integral part of your life.
Do the things in life that make you happy. Practice and get good at that stuff, challenge yourself!
Trust me, I know the clouds of anxiety or depression or stress can get in the way, but I believe in your ability to follow what interests you and find your state of flow whatever that may be.
If you need help getting started on your self care journey, be sure to check out my FREE 10 Day Self Care challenge.
You can also learn more self care tips by checking out my youtube channel below.