Well-known Biohackers, such as the American Tim Ferris, swear by the Flow and call it "the state of maximum productivity and creativity". There is no greater power than the Flow! But it should not only increase productivity but also be an important ingredient for happiness and contentment. In this article, you will learn what exactly is meant by the Flow and how easy it is to get started.
Work in the Flow - What is this all about?
In a collaborative study by the University of Queensland and the University of Western Sydney, the Flow State was examined in more detail and the following definition was created: "The Flow State is a positively experienced condition which occurs when the performer is completely immersed in the state of performance; in a state in which the personal skills optimally meet the required performance. "¹ This sounds rather abstract, but only describes the state of maximum efficiency and concentration, which can refer to either physical, as well as mental activity. In the field of extreme and high-performance sport, the phenomenon has long been known under another name. The term was coined by the NBA (National Basketball Association) player Michael Jordan, who with "being in the zone" rewrote the state of total concentration. Research on the mental Flow State already had its origin in the 70s in America. More specifically in the shape of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, who has conducted the largest study of the Flow up to now. In this connection, he has interviewed performers and sportspeople worldwide, concerning what maximum performance and satisfaction mean for them and has received the most varied responses. Most frequently the Flow has been mentioned.²
You can recognize the Flow State by the following:
1. Your performance shoots up. You can do more, in less time, with better quality and do not feel that you have overexerted yourself.
2. The self fades into the background. You are no longer consciously aware of yourself and your ego and your body awareness seem to disappear. All you still perceive is the task before you.
3. The time seems to fly. You find yourself in a state of complete concentration, where time no longer matters. 2 hours can seem like 5 minutes, you feel no fatigue or boredom.
Take-Home-Message 1: The Flow State describes the state of maximum efficiency and concentration. In which both physical and mental performance are included.
... and this happens in your brain while being in the state of Flow
Of course, there must be something going on in your brain that causes such a high performance. The Flow state is triggered by something that is called the "temporary hypofrontality hypothesis". Sounds complicated? It isn't. If you are in a state of Flow, you just completely shut down a region of the brain, named the prefrontal cortex. This is the brain region that controls self-perception, the estimation of situations, and moral action. Specifically, this means: if you are in the Flow, certain areas of perception are, as it were, turned off. In a study at the University of Braunschweig, the impact of the Flow on 28 high-performance athletes was investigated. It was found that the focus on the task that you perform in the Flow increases and so you improve your performance.³ The Flow still has another special effect on the brain. The same study at Braunschweig University found that a specific hormone cocktail is released during the Flow State, which is addictive. Among them are hormones that make you happy and reduce stress. Once one has experienced such a state, the body remembers this and will repeat it. This explains the addictive factor of extreme, physical, and mental performance. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains the connection of flow and happiness in this TED Talk video:
Take-Home-Message 2: The Flow not only changes your performance but also your brain function. When you are in the Flow, particular regions of your brain are switched off enabling you to achieve greater focus. Watch out for the danger of addiction!
You can get into the Flow with these triggers
There are countless ways in which you can enter the state of Flow. The Flow Genome Project, under the leadership of the two Americans Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, has set itself the task of examining the state of Flow in detail and making it accessible to everyone. Together the two have discovered 17 different triggers that are very individual. Everybody responds to different triggers.⁴ These can be broadly classified into four groups.
1. The adrenaline junkies, such as boxers and parachutists. All those who need high risk and get an extreme kick out of it. The higher the risk and the more extreme the possible consequences, the more intense the Flow experience. The adrenaline junkies need the thrill of danger. Tip: have you ever tried a sport, which scares you? How about trying bungee jumping? Take your sports to their limits and maybe you will experience such an intense Flow feeling!
2. The profound thinkers such as inventors and scientists. All those who immerse themselves completely in their specialty, plunge into it and discover something of genius! The profound thinkers need the feeling of being intellectually challenged to their limits facing a nearly impossible task. So they express themselves best in the Flow by being highly concentrated. Tip: follow your interests and preferences and be curious! Intensive learning processes put you into a deep Flow State.
Tip: With the right nutrients, you can support your body and your mental performance. For example, vitamin B5 contributes to normal mental performance, while vitamin B12 fights fatigue. Concentration drinks like FOCUS NOW combine these active ingredients with caffeine and neurotransmitters for your brain.
3. The "taking-an-inward-look-into-yourself". All those who love the form of exercises that focus on yourself and enable you to switch off completely. You sink into exercises like meditation, Pilates, and so forth and become intensively absorbed in training. Here, the mind is relaxed to its maximum limits and exercises itself in pure awareness. Tip: meditation exercises can be a great trigger to get into the Flow. How you can successfully access a state of meditation, you can read here in our article.
4. Group animals. All those who feel most comfortable among as many people as possible. They draw their whole energy from the people who surround them and can immerse themselves for hours in music and dancing. The Flow is so intense that they feel no fatigue and the feeling experienced here and now, is perfect. Tip: when did you last dance freely to your favorite music? Long ago? Then it's about time again. Turn the music on, get into the Flow, enjoy!
Take-Home-Message 3: There are many ways to get into the Flow. There are four different categories: the adrenaline junkies, the profound thinker, the "taking- an-inward-look-into-yourself" and the group animals.