Flow state is a feeling of freedom, lightness, joy and pure bliss. When we enter a flow state, we can feel it in every part of our being, it’s an elevated state and a full-body high.
The term flow state originated from positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the first to study and research flow. Through his research, he began to understand that “people are at their most creative, productive and happy when they are in a state of flow.” He coined the term ‘flow state’ because many of those researched described their optimal state as “instances when their work simply flowed out of them without much effort.” He defines it as, “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
My Flow State
I was inspired to start dancing salsa while living abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I loved the music, pace of the dance and the variety it provided. Living in Argentina, I started to take classes and made a goal to reach a level where I could dance confidently and freely. Like for many things in 2020, Covid put a pause on my salsa dancing progress. Yet, when moving to Mexico, I brought this goal back and committed to getting consistent with classes and practice. I started taking private lessons and also discovered another popular form of Latin dance: the bachata.
I was first brought to a Latin social dance by a friend in Buenos Aires. He danced the first few songs with me and then threw me into the fire passing me to other partners to dance. I knew he was pushing me to learn but I was terrified. I’d approach each person with a “Perdón, soy principiante” (Sorry, I’m a beginner), who would either happily guide me or frustratedly power through the song with me. I remember sitting out and watching the bachata songs in admiration of how the bodies would roll and follow the music. I respected the beauty of the dance but thought to myself, nope- not for me, I could never move my body in that way.
Yet, fast forward to living here in Mexico City, I’ve fallen in love with learning and dancing bachata. The other night, a friend and I went to a class and last minute decided to head to a bachata social. We got there and one dance turned into hours of dancing. I had connected with a deep flow state and woke up with a literal residual bliss.
Flow state can come to us each in different forms but it’s a feeling. The feeling of time flying, thoughts disappearing and soaring through an activity. Flow is medicine for the soul. So let this story be your reminder to find your flow, whatever it is. Bring more of that into your routine and feel the joy ripple outwards.
How to find what bring you flow
- What do you find yourself daydreaming about?
- What activities do you finish feeling an elevated state of bliss?
- Where do you lose track of time?
- What activities make you feel fully immersed without a care or concern for others’ perceptions?
- What are you doing when you feel fully present/in the zone without being easily disrupted?
If still struggling to identify these areas that bring flow, here are some tips to try:
Flow State Tips
- Try a new activity of interest
Is there an activity that has been drawing your attention but you haven’t mustered up the confidence or time to try it? Is there something you’ve watched others do in admiration? Create the time and space to go for it and test it out. Notice the feeling it creates for you. As my story above shows, this could lead to finding a new passion that brings you into a state of flow.
- Challenge yourself to learn something new
Flow state can be induced when we are stretching ourselves to go after something challenging where we get so engaged in the task that we lose regard for all else. Have you ever been reading a book about a topic of interest and found yourself lost in the pages? Then before you know it, you’re finishing the book. Find a topic that fascinates you and challenge yourself to learn something new. You’ll likely find yourself entering a flow state when reading, researching or taking a course on the topic.
- Engage in a creative activity
Each of us has unique creative passions. Often engaging in a creative activity can bring us into a deep state of flow. This could be dancing, listening to your favorite playlist, creating music, blogging, drawing, painting, gardening, cooking, etc. If you’re not sure what your favorite creative outlet is, try something new. Again, notice the feeling you have when engaging in the activity. Are you getting lost in the task? Do you feel an elevated state? If so, you’ve likely found flow.
Bonus: Finally, check out this TED talk to learn more from the expert himself about the power of flow state. Also, this awesome recent TED talk by Adam Grant on how to stop languishing and start finding flow.
I hope this share empowers you to find more flow in your daily routine and feel the joy ripple outwards.
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