Flow, or flow state, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Flow is often also described as “being in the zone”.
When you’re in the flow, it’s as if you’re almost forgetting time and space. You’re so completely absorbed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time and are unaware of what is going on around you.
Such a flow state is often achieved while engaging in creative arts or sports, but it can be different for every person. When was the last time you found yourself fully immersed in an activity that you fully enjoyed? What were you doing?
Besides doing an activity that you enjoy, achieving flow comes with some other great benefits.
The end of a flow state is often crowned by the achievement of the initial goal or task. Completing a challenging task comes with a great feeling of reward and fulfillment.
When experiencing flow, you’re working on a task that you know is challenging but that is perfectly doable with your skillset. This is not just exciting and fun, but also provides you with a boost of self-esteem. People who frequently experience flow, enjoy an overall higher level of self-esteem.
Doing things you love, feeling fulfilled and getting a self-esteem boost are all things that can make you happy. In fact, researchers found that experiencing flow can positively contribute to your happiness and overall well-being.
In order to be in the flow your skills need to match the challenge posed by the task. And as you become more skilled, you seek new challenges that match your newly improved skill set. This creates a positive and nurturing cycle in which you continuously develop and improve your skill set.
Being able to complete challenging tasks, which at the same time improve your skill set, makes you also improve your overall work performance and productivity.
Being in the flow requires you to focus and to tune out distractions around you, and this is a skill that you can use to tune out negative emotions or worries as well. Achieving a Flow state also shows to yourself that you can overcome challenges and reach your goals, and this can positively contribute to your coping skills.
We’ve learned that being in the flow is a great state to be in. But, this state is increasingly difficult to achieve as we never really have enough time at disposal to fully immerse ourselves into an activity without being constantly distracted.
According to Mihály Csikszentmihalyi’s flow model, flow is achieved when your skill levels are in sync with a doable challenge.
To achieve as often as possible a state of flow, try to do the following:
The activity you engage with should be something you know that you will enjoy and where you can fully immerse yourself.
In order to achieve a flow state you need to be able to fully focus on the task at hand. Make sure that you’re in an environment which allows you to fully engage with the task and avoid any potential distractions. You can use Noisli to mask any distracting noises.
Your goal should be clear and require a concrete outcome. Choose a goal that you know is challenging but which is perfectly doable with your skill set. Be careful to not make it too easy as otherwise you risk getting bored and this will prevent you from achieving flow.