Everyone has good days and bad days.
Everyone has activities so enthralling they completely lose themselves and track of time in the moment.
On the flip side, everyone also has tasks they dread, put off as long as possible, and push through while hating every moment.
Have you ever looked at someone who whistles while doing the dishes or commuting to work and asked yourself, "How can they be so happy while doing something so mundane and draining?"
No, but they may have mastered the art of positive psychology and achieved flow state.
You don't need to enjoy cleaning your house or digging through paperwork, but life is short.
It's a lot easier to roll with life's low points when you start living in the moment and floating along.
What is a Flow State of Mind?
Positive psychology gets a lot of, well, negative attention.
Some people say that we shouldn't strive to be happy all the time because it's simply not natural and it could cause people to repress their feelings, especially if they're in abusive or toxic situations.
Flow state is more about living in the moment and rolling with the punches.
As a state of mind, flow state usually applies to productivity and work situations.
However, a strong state of flow is also useful when life throws those devastating curveballs at you.
You're much more likely to respond effectively to trauma in everyday life when you can think clearly and process what's really happening objectively.
Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls the state of flow "optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best." (1)
Simple enough, right?
According to Csíkszentmihályi, you need to experience ten factors simultaneously for the flow experience to occur:
- You set clear goals (attainable yet challenging tasks).
- You experience laser-focused concentration and attention in the present moment.
- You're engaged in a rewarding activity for its own sake.
- Self-consciousness drops away and you feel sincere in your activity.
- Time flies. You completely lose track of time and your sense of time in general.
- You can judge your own progress and provide immediate feedback in the present moment.
- You're aware of how your level of skill fits into the task at hand.
- You feel in control of the task or activity and the outcome.
- You lose awareness of your own physical needs.
- Effortless focus on the task at hand with your whole being.
Of course, you can't experience flow all the time.
Finding flow and holding onto it when you need it to boost your mental state for productivity and accomplishing goals are key.
7 Tips and Triggers to Achieving Flow State
Now that you understand the concept of flow, how can you set yourself up to experience it?
These tips and triggers can help you achieve the experience of flow when you need it to smash through your work and even improve your skill level.
1. Declutter Your Space
It's true that your mind functions better when your workspace is clear of clutter.
Clutter is distracting and, while you might not realize it, overloads your brain with decision-making jobs. (2)
Get your workspace clear.
Remember in The Office how Michael Scott had a desk full of toys and never got any work done? There's some logic here.
Skip the decor, stacks of envelopes, and knickknacks.
2. Declutter Your Mind
Keeping your workspace clear is easy, but your mind? That's another story.
Start by spitting out as many thoughts as you can so they won't burden your flow activities.
Write down your general thoughts, concerns, or goals in a journal.
Next, get yourself a functional daily planner to schedule out your entire week so you can account for work and free time.
Finally, use meditation techniques to remove the rest of the clutter.
Zazen is particularly useful for this. (3)
3. Get Enough Sleep and Exercise
The importance of sleep and exercise for mental well-being cannot be underestimated.
One-third of all Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation destroys your concentration, cognitive function, multitasking ability, and reaction time. (4)
Exercise, on the other hand, is important for balancing your brain chemistry, reducing stress, and removing cortisol which could interfere with achieving flow state. (5)
4. Eat the Right Foods
Diet plays a key role in mental health.
Every cell in a person's body, including their brain cells, needs vital nutrients and minerals to function optimally.
Most standard American diets lack things like
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Fill your diet with healthy fats, water, fiber, protein, whole grains, and a multivitamin to close the gaps.
5. Work at Your Peak Productivity Time
You have to admit: You simply work better at certain times throughout the day.
Some people kill it in the morning, feel drained in the afternoon, and jump back into gear in the evening.
Other folks need the morning to recharge their batteries before multitasking and kicking it into overdrive at night.
Find what time works for you and choose that time to experience flow state.
6. Find the Perfect Playlist
Music can play a critical part in your state of flow. (6)
For many people, music without lyrics works best because it's free of distractions.
Electronic music, lo-fi hip hop, classical -- all great choices for staying focused.
7. Consider Some Nootropics
Supplements can help you achieve and maintain a productive mental state. Just don't rely on them to do all the heavy lifting.
First, make sure you're taking a multivitamin to cover the basics. Next, introduce supplements like
The Bottom Line
Achieving flow is all about living in the moment and forgetting the world for a second.
Yes, it's kind of self-centered, but it's also selfless in that you're so focused on a clear goal that you completely lose track of time.
Once you figure out how to harness that, you'll realize that some of the best moments are ahead of you.