Finding the Elusive Flow State

You’ve probably heard about the psychological concept of “flow” as being “in the zone” or happily doing a task you enjoy without stress or effort. Described by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly in his book and later TED Talk, flow is something that humans of any age, gender, or skill level can experience. And according to Csikszentmihaly, the times you’re in flow are the happiest and most fulfilling moments of our lives.

So what is flow and how do you get into a flow state? And how do you pronounce Csikszentmihaly? We’ve got the answers below.

What is Flow State?

According to Csikszentmihaly (the closest English approximation is “cheeks send me high”), who coined the term in 1975, flow is “mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

Sounds great, huh? You know that feeling of total, yet effortless concentration or focus, without even trying? That feeling of there being nothing else in the world except you and what you’re doing? And there’s no place else you’d rather be? Yeah. That’s flow.

Humans can get into a flow state, colloquially called “in the zone” from all kinds of activities such as running, cycling, rowing, or another sports activity, cooking or building something, making arts and crafts, dancing, playing or listening to music, reading, writing, drawing and coloring—or even more mundane tasks like vacuuming, scrubbing, chopping wood or mowing the lawn.

When you’re in flow, you’ve achieved total concentration and you feel as if you’re the master of your domain, that anything is possible, and that you’re competent and confident. It may be hard to know you’re in flow because as soon as you become aware of it, you’ve actually broken the magic of it by inserting your consciousness into the activity.

What does Flow State Look Like?

In general, you can tell someone is in a flow state when whatever they are doing looks natural, artful and effortless, as if they are synced completely in the task. It can look like they’re not even trying. It’s usually beautiful and inspiring. It may look like the person was simply born to do whatever it is they’re doing.

It might look like this person, focused on making a design with steamed milk on their latte:

Barista focused on making latte art

Or this person, completely immersed in creating art:

Female mural artist in flow state creating wall art

The best thing about flow is that you know it when you see it or feel it. If you’re thinking about whether or not you’re in flow, then you’re not. You can’t overthink it. Flow simply is.

What Does Flow State Feel Like?

In addition to feeling empowered and almost as if you’re in a trance, Csikszentmihalyi described eight characteristics of flow. These are:

  1. Complete concentration on the task;
  2. Understanding the goals and reward of the task and receiving immediate feedback;
  3. Your concept of time changes (speeding up/slowing down);
  4. The experience is rewarding for its own sake;
  5. You have a sense of effortlessness and ease;
  6. There is a balance between the challenge at hand and your skills;
  7. Actions and awareness are merged; you’ve lost a sense of having to think about how to do what you’re doing or the sense that you are separate from the task;
  8. You have a feeling of control over the task (as opposed to the other way around).

So how do you find that state of complete focus? You can start with getting rid of these flow-inhibitors.

Preparing Your Brain for Flow State

Since anyone can achieve a flow state, but sometimes it’s easier than others, it is possible to prime yourself for finding flow. How? Here are some tips:

  1. Make sure you are well rested. Being tired can make it hard to get into flow.
  2. Take care of physical needs. Make sure you aren’t hungry, thirsty, too cold or hot, in pain, or have to go to the bathroom before beginning an immersive activity.
  3. Lower your stress. Stress and anxiety can inhibit flow.
  4. Limit distractions. If your mind flits from one thing to the next, it will be hard to get into flow.
  5. Do something you love! Flow finds you when you’re rocking whatever you’re doing.
  6. Get curious. Researchers have found that the curiosity vectors in the brain’s frontal cortex are highly activated during flow as the brain easily communicates within itself and with the body.
  7. Take an adaptogen-based vitamin supplement like vitafusion Brain Food to help nourish the brain with nutrients and help support stress.*

What is vitafusion™ Brain Food Ashwagandha Gummy?

Brain Food is a tasty blueberry-flavored gummy from vitafusion that contains vitamins B-6 and B-12 to nourish your brain plus 125 mg of ashwagandha to support stress and 100 mg of phosphatidylserine to help support focus* per serving.

Chew two Brain Food gummies per day to get the adaptogenic benefits of ashwagandha and the focus support from phosphatidylserine without any synthetic FD&C dyes, gluten, high fructose corn syrup, dairy or artificial flavors.*

In the pursuit of that flow state, vitafusion Brain Food gummies can help manage stress and focus.*