Three ways to get into flow state

What is a flow state?

There are eight defining characteristics of flow, which Csikszentmihalyi documents in his book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” They are as follows:

  1. Complete concentration on a task

  2. Clarity of goals, immediate feedback, and a reward in mind

  3. Transformation of time (speeding up or slowing down of time)

  4. Intrinsically rewarding experience – an end in-and-of itself

  5. Effortlessness and ease

  6. Balance between challenge and skills

  7. Actions merge with awareness — a loss of self-conscious rumination

  8. Feelings of control over the task

Steven Kotler, the pioneering flow state researcher puts a modern spin to the above classic definition by condensing it into 4 core categories, acronymed STER - which stands for Selflessness, Timelessness, Effortlessness and Richness.

When we are in flow, we experience all four attributes listed above in harmony, thus putting us in an extremely powerful, creative and positive state of mind.

Why is getting into flow state important?

Getting into flow state enables us to experience one or more of the following benefits quite consistently.

  • Improved productivity

  • Accelerated learning

  • Enhanced creativity

  • Improved performance (athletic as well as professional fields)

  • Overcome/ reduce fear

  • Improved happiness

  • Better sleep

How do we get into flow state?

Getting into the flow states is a skill, and there are specific practices that will help us to attain it. The more we practice any of the methods below – the more we achieve our own flow state – the more equipped we will be to enter it at whim. Here are three demonstrated ways to get into flow:

Meditation: Meditation helps us tap into your own inner stillness. Regardless of what thoughts arise when we sit still, meditation teaches us to observe them from a detached perspective. Meditation also increases creativity, curbs stress and anxiety, and increases happiness.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Training: This is a technique that teaches us to consciously synchronise our brainwaves and heartbeat. The HRV method helps us attain a calm focus. Like meditation, HRV guides us into our own flow state; though HRV differs from meditation, as we get real-time feedback through an HRV sensor. HRV is particularly helpful for the flow state because it provides a balance between challenge and skill and there’s always room for improvement. Plus, we can track your progress.

Sensory deprivation: According to Taoist traditions, the flow state is inextricably linked to water. Float tanks, also called sensory deprivation tanks, might be the closest we can get to that primitive flow in the fluidity of water. In a float tank, we are suspended in a light-proof, soundproof chamber (like a big bathtub) with more than 1,000 pounds of magnesium salt. You float free of sensory input, effortlessly, without touching anything. In fact, both water and air temperature mimic standard body temperature. In this way, our senses are completely deprived of any distracting stimuli. This allows our mind to go within.

At first, we may notice thoughts like “This is dumb, boring, and uncomfortable.” However, after a short period of time, our mind starts to flow with the water and let go. Floating is known to enhance creativity, which is indicative that we have entered the flow state.

Credit: Dave Asprey | Steven Kotler | Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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