What is a flow state and how can it help you enjoy yourself and focus more when working?
Do you want to learn how to stay focused and engaged in your work? Then the research on flow may help. A flow state can be defined as a sort of effortless attention. When in flow, we are deeply absorbed in our activities yet there is no feeling of exerting effort. It also involves a feeling of high-energy positive emotion (like excitement or enjoyment) and unique physiological activation patterns that resemble patterns similar to both positive feelings and high attention (Ullén, de Manzano, Theorell, & Harmat, 2010).
More specifically, flow is thought to involve 9 components (Csikszentmihalyi 1990):
A state of flow is thought to occur when we are engaging in activities that are just the right difficulty for us—they are challenging but doable given our skill level. The activity is right in our sweet spot.
While in flow, there is no awareness of the self-doing the activity. Our actions just feel effortless or automatic (Jackson & Marsh, 1996).
Clear goals are set from the outset of the flow state or in the process of doing the activity. This way, we are very clear about what we need to do.
This is the feedback we get from our engagement in whatever task we're doing. Specifically, we recognize that we are succeeding or on the right track. We can feel that we're doing well.
When in flow, we feel totally focused on the activity at hand. Our thoughts and actions are well-applied to whatever we're doing.
A Sense of Control
When in a state of flow, we feel like we can do anything and that we are in control of what's happening.
Loss of Self-Consciousness
In daily life, we tend to have thoughts in the back of our minds about how others view us. But in a state of flow, we're not worrying about what others think of us. We feel and act confidently without a sense of self-consciousness.
Transformation of Time
In flow states, time can feel like it's moving either faster or slower than usual. We may feel like time slows down, allowing us to think clearly, or time speeds up, feeling like it is just flying by.
This experience is thought to be the result of flow. It's a feeling of being intrinsically motivated or feeling like the task itself was enjoyable, regardless of any goals that the task may be attached to.
How to Get into Flow
A flow state can feel elusive. We want it, but how do we get it? Here are some suggestions from the research.
Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.