Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about Flow

Here is a quick, at-a-glance guide to the questions most commonly asked about flow or how to get in the zone.

What is Flow?

Flow or being “in the zone” is an optimal state of mind during which we are so immersed in what we are doing that we lose track of time and how we are being perceived by others. In a flow state, we are extremely creative, productive, perform at a high level and feel positive.

What Are Common Flow Activities?

Flow is often reported during sports (i.e., getting in the zone like during a runner’s high) or creative activities like painting, writing, singing, dancing or playing an instrument. Reading is the most commonly-reported flow activity around the world. However, we can get in the zone during any activity where we are focused, engaged and listening to feedback from the activity itself to help us reach our goals.

How Does It Feel to Be “In the Zone”?

When we are in the zone (also called a “flow state”) we often become so immersed in what we are doing that we lose track of time and no longer care what people think of us. We are just happily doing our thing, deeply connected to our inner voice and a calm energy within. People often report feeling peaceful or even euphoric or an emotional high while in flow.

Why Do Humans Experience Flow?

When we are in risky, potentially life-threatening situations, the brain blocks out non-essential functions so we can fully focus on what we are doing. This extreme focus associated with flow can save our lives. It is also a natural process by which we can more easily master skills that are linked to our well-being and survival.

How Can I Create a Flow State?

We can get in the zone any time we are completely focused on and engaged in what we are doing. It helps if our activity is something we already know how to do, and we are personally invested in mastering the skill or deepening our experience. We are more apt to get in the zone during an activity that we love to do, rather than one we do primarily to impress others.

Why is a Flow State Important?

Flow has been linked to helping us reach our full potential, increasing our life satisfaction and giving us a sense of purpose and meaning. Flow also can help us be more authentic because during flow, we are connected with our ego-less, true selves—that aspect of ourselves that is already at peace and not driven by seeking external approval.

How Can I Get In The Zone?

  1. Focus on what you are doing
  2. Block out distractions (including wandering thoughts)
  3. Make sure your activity is not too challenging or easy
  4. Keep it engaging and fun
  5. Be clear on your personal goals for the activity
  6. Pay attention
  7. Adjust as needed to make the experience work for you

What Are the Benefits of Flow?

The list of benefits of being in the zone is a long one. Here are the most commonly-reported benefits of flow.

  1. Performing at an optimal state
  2. Increased productivity
  3. Heightened creativity
  4. Connected to Intuition
  5. Sense of oneness or feeling energetically connected to others
  6. Connected to your ego-less self (lack of self-consciousness or caring what people think)
  7. Feeling Positive
  8. Sense of purpose or life meaning
  9. Greater confidence after flow

What Is the Egoless Self?

Flow helps us connect with the egoless self, sometimes called the unconscious mind, intuition, true self, core essence, chi, prana, inner voice, divine self, inner light or highest self. When we are in the zone, we are connected with this egoless self, and lose self-consciousness. Instead of our actions being driven by external achievements, they are driven by who we really are.

Why Is “The Zone” So Special?

Many forms of therapy, coaching, and healing modalities have been developed to help us bypass the ego and tap our full potential. These include meditation, hypnosis, NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), yoga, creative visualization and energy work, etc. Being “in the zone” is unique because it is an innate way by which we naturally access our egoless, true selves.

What Is Microflow?

Microflow describes shorter, less intense experiences of creative flow that can happen during the course of the day, for example while making a pot of coffee, doing everyday chores or doing a crossword puzzle. Microflow activities offer the same benefits as peak flow experiences but to a lesser extent.

Why Should I Seek Microflow Experiences?

Microflow experiences offer a way to weave flow into our everyday lives easily and effortlessly. Getting in the zone is like any habit. The more we do it, the more we master it. The skills we learn during microflow increase our ability to experience peak states, as both are simply different levels of the same mental state.

What is A Peak Experience?

A peak flow experience is an altered state of consciousness that is particularly intense. Our moods are positively altered as a flood of feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones enter our system. Peak experiences can occur during high-risk activities, near-death events, while meditating or being deeply immersed in a task, especially for long periods of time.  

How Can I Achieve a Peak State?

Creative flow happens on a continuum. The more we focus, the longer flow may last, and the more intense the experience may become. Even during one specific flow experience, we may feel microflow at first, then it can almost be as if the volume is turned up to reach a crescendo. As the flow experience comes to a natural end, it may feel as if its volume turns down again.

Is Being in the Zone a Mystical Experience?

How people feel while being in a flow state or in the zone varies greatly. During peak states of flow, some have reported feeling intense emotional highs, having epiphanies or visions, hearing intuitive voices, channeling, seeing light or feeling a sense of oneness and deep spiritual connection. Others have none of these experiences, just feel deeply engrossed or an altered sense of time.

How Long Does Being “In the Zone” Last?

Since flow is simply an altered state of consciousness, a flow state or experience of being in the zone can be very brief or last for several hours. Intense flow states like those experienced during near-death or high-risk events may be difficult to maintain for long periods of time, while we often have many microflow experiences on an average day without even realizing it.

Can Flow Help Boost My Performance?

One of the reasons people are so gravitated to getting in the zone is that it has been shown that flow is the key to reaching peak performance and mastering new skills. Many people in flow states achieve what they once considered impossible. However, enhancing performance is just one of many benefits of creative flow. Others include feeling a sense of inner peace, calm, increased confidence and being able to more easily regulate one’s emotions, etc.

How Long Should Being In the Zone Last to Boost Performance?

When the goal is to reach a peak state or to dramatically boost our productivity or quality of work, some experts say we should be in a flow state for at least 15-20 minutes. Others suggest we should attain a flow state for several hours. However, it is important to remember that all levels of a flow state, even microflow, can enhance our performance.

What Happens in the Brain While We Are “In the Zone”?

During flow, research suggests our brains may temporarily block our prefrontal cortex (home of the ego and inner critic). The brain may also release feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones including dopamine (triggers pleasure sensors), anandamide (“bliss molecule” that can boost memory, risk-taking and inventive thinking), norepinephrine (boosts our heart rate and energy) and endorphins (natural pain-reducers). After experiencing creative flow, serotonin may be released causing an afterglow feeling.

When was Flow First Discovered?

Flow has been described in texts from thousands of years ago as part of the human experience. Through the years, an alternate state of consciousness like flow has been referenced by many different writers, philosophers and seekers exploring the idea of us living our optimal lives, including by Abraham Maslov in his exploration of self-actualization.

Why is Being “In The Zone” Called Flow?

Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (pronounced Me-high Cheek-sent-me-high) conducted research in which he interviewed thousands of people known to be exceptional achievers living highly rewarding lives. Flow is the word most often used when describing how they felt during their favorite activities. As a result, he dubbed this psychological state of mind the “flow state.” He documented this in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Did Mihaly Csikszentmihaly Invent Flow?

Flow is a mental state that humans experience naturally, not something that was invented. Flow is a natural state that we often get into when we are mastering a skill, or are simply doing something we love to do. It is not something that needs to be learned. However, by recognizing how flow works and consciously seeking opportunities to get into flow, we can greatly enrich our lives.

Through his extensive research, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Ph.D., offered us a framework so that we can understand flow and start working with it in a more conscious way. Csikszentmihaly continued to be actively involved in flow research until the time of his recent death, and is the author of several books about flow.

Do I Need Special Training to Get In The Zone?

The flow state is a beneficial state of mind most of us already experience, often without realizing it. Many people aren’t aware that they can consciously achieve more flow by making small changes, such as limiting distractions. To get in the zone or experience a flow state, one of the most valuable things we can do is to become aware, experiment and pay attention to what works for us personally.

What Is a Flow Trigger?

A flow trigger is anything that helps us get in the zone. For example, focusing, doing activities we enjoy, being engaged, challenged and having personal goals for a task are key flow triggers. Other creative flow triggers might include being in danger, feeling a high personal need to get a task done, or feeling an inner calling or sense of purpose.

Can I Get into Flow When I’m Bored?

Flow is usually triggered when we are challenged just enough. Creative flow rarely happens when we are learning to do something for the first time or putting so much pressure on ourselves that we are experiencing anxiety. Flow also rarely happens when we are extremely bored. However by making small adjustments to how we are doing, such as by finding creative ways to make a task into a game, or finding creative ways to reengage our interest, we can achieve flow.

Do I Have to Have a Goal to Experience Flow?

We almost always know what we want to get out of an activity as we do it, even if we don’t realize it at the time. Sometimes goal setting is overt, as in when we are working on improving in a skill, like running faster or catching a ball. More often, however, we have subtle, internally-driven goals for activities that we may not even consciously realize, such as listening closely, connecting with our intuition, or moving creative ideas into a manifest form.

Can Flow Happen by Accident?

We often get into our zone, or experience micro-flow without planning or trying to do so, and even without realizing that we have. Creative flow can happen during an engaging conversation or while working intently on a specific task. The core elements of focus, engagement, having internalized goals (even if they are not conscious) and adjusting to continue reaching them naturally trigger flow.

Do Children Experience Creative Flow?

Most children achieve flow quite easily and often, especially when in a safe environment with minimal distractions. This may be because they are almost constantly practicing and mastering new skills. Most young children are also less aware of how they are being perceived by others than adults, which helps in easily falling into a flow state.

Does Flow Only Happen During Activities We Enjoy?

Flow can happen during any activity, so long as we find some way to keep ourselves engaged and interested, like making a game out of it. Prisoners, slaves and victims in concentration camps have all described being in a flow state while doing extremely unpleasant activities. Flow gives us control over our inner experience, making us more resilient when facing external pressures.

Can Flow Make Me Happy?

People in a flow state often feel positive emotions, anything from a quiet sense of calm and inner peace, to joy, euphoria or feeling naturally high. When we are “in the zone,” the brain also releases feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters that contribute to positive mental health. People who feel an overall sense of life satisfaction often report experiencing flow.

Can Flow Treat Anxiety?

Anxiety can be a serious condition and it is important to consult with a trained professional when managing its symptoms. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, doing activities that bring us joy and get us into the zone such as going for a walk, dancing, doodling, doing a puzzle or shooting hoops can be an effective way to self-soothe when we feel anxious.

Can Getting in the Zone Treat Depression?

If you feel depressed, it is very important to seek professional help. As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, activities and hobbies that help us create a flow state can benefit our mental well-being and give us a sense of purpose and meaning. You have a unique energy that the world desperately needs. If you feel depressed, please reach out for support. Sometimes mental health treatment is required first before we are in the right state of mind to experience creative flow.

Is Flow Meditation?

Research shows that the benefits of being in a flow state and meditation are very similar. The difference is that creative flow is a state of mind that happens during certain activities, not an activity itself. Creative flow or getting in the zone is sometimes called meditation-in-motion, however a flow state can actually happen during any activity including meditation as long we meet certain criteria like being focused and engaged.

Is Mindfulness The Same as Flow?

Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment and noticing specific details of our lives more clearly. Most experts believe that we can be in flow during any activity including practicing mindfulness as long as we meet certain criteria such as focusing, engaging and having specific goals. Mindfulness strengthens our ability to focus, which is an important skill in experiencing a flow state. Mindfulness often begins with focusing fully on how we are feeling and what we are doing in the present moment. This heightened awareness can be an important first step, leading to a fulfilling flow experience.

Is Yoga a Type of Flow?

In yoga, flow refers to a series of yoga poses that are done in a sequence. In psychology, flow refers to an altered state of consciousness. Activities like yoga, tai-chi, qigong and martial arts are designed to help us focus and connect with the natural energy in our bodies, which makes them particularly conducive to helping us experience a flow state.

Do I Have to Be Active to Get In the Zone?

Flow can be experienced during a wide range of activities, including when we are working to solve a problem in our minds, reading, meditating, humming, brainstorming, being engaged in conversation, as well as during more active activities like creating art, writing or playing sports. We do not have to be doing something artistic or physical to get into our optimal zone. There is really no end to the activities in which we can experience a flow state.

Can Flow Make Me More Creative?

Flow or getting into our optimal zone can be experienced by anyone, regardless of specific talents or abilities. Flow is directly correlated with increased creativity. During a flow state, creativity is dramatically heightened, a benefit that can last for up to 24 hours after the flow experience.

Can Flow Make Me More Intuitive?

Flow has been associated with enhanced intuition. People often describe feeling an inner calling or being connected to an intuitive feeling or inner voice during creative flow experiences. There is evidence that the more creative flow we experience in life, the more skilled we become in tapping our intuition as we navigate everyday challenges.

Can Flow Help Me Learn Better?

Flow is the optimal state in which to master skills. When we first learn a new concept, we often struggle and are rarely in flow. Once we have learned the basics, it is possible to experience flow, especially when we focus as we practice.

Flow became recognized as a distinct state of mind by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Ph.D. His initial findings are documented in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

What is Humanistic Psychology?

Humanistic Psychology was founded in the 1960’s and focuses on looking at humans from a holistic perspective, each individual as unique and special, and on supporting individuals in reaching their full potential. Abraham Maslov, Ph.D. was said to inspire Humanistic Psychology with his framework of humans as continually evolving towards self-actualization.

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology focuses on individuals’ positive assets and strengths rather than weaknesses. The term was coined in the 1990s by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., a peer of Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Ph.D. In Positive Psychology, cultivating a creative flow state is seen as one of many different strategies individuals can use to increase life satisfaction.

Is Flow a Form of Coaching?

The idea of creative flow has been embraced by many a wide variety of fields including education, athletic coaching, life coaching, psychology, human resources, leadership training, management consulting, business administration, etc., to help people reach their goals and full potential.

What is Flow Coaching?

Because creative flow is such a powerful state of mind that enhances our abilities and overall potential, a growing number of professionals in a wide range of industries including life coaching and sports coaching are focusing their practices on helping clients improve their lives and reach their personal goals by activating their creative flow state. Support in helping you achieve more flow in your life is just one of many services a coach may offer.

Does Flow Have Any Negatives?

During flow or while being in the zone, we may get so immersed that we lose awareness of other things like whether we are hungry or thirsty, warm or cold, our surroundings or the time. This can lead us to sometimes neglect other aspects of our lives or self-care. Most people find these risks to be very manageable and that overall, experiencing flow positively benefits their overall lives.

Can I Become Addicted to Flow?

Like any other thing that makes us feel good or even high, we can become addicted to feeling of a flow state. Creative flow is not meant to be a continual state of mind. It’s important to find balance.

How Can I Achieve Flow in my Overall Life?

The more often we experience a flow state, the more likely it may be that we feel a sense of flow in our overall lives. Creative flow is associated with a lack of self-consciousness and detachment from outcome and ego, which can help us more easily let go of blocks and habits that may have a negative impact on our lives and contribute to our lives feeling as if they are flowing along.

Can Creative Flow Help Me Be More Authentic?

During flow, we are connected with our egoless selves and detached from our inner critic. This can help us to listen to our inner voice more easily and increase our connection with our intuition. Research shows while during a flow experience we lose self-consciousness, afterwards we often have a stronger sense of ourselves, a quiet confidence that comes from knowing who we really are.

What Is Group Flow?

Group flow is often seen among professional athletes, musicians and others who create or work together in community. There seems to be an energy exchange that exists between members of a group, and evidence that an entire community can experience creative flow together. Systems where contributions from all members are welcome, and everyone is equally able to lead and to follow seems to be important in creating group flow.

What’s The Connection Between Manifesting and Flow?

Research in quantum physics is ongoing. Some studies suggest that when we experience positive emotions like those associated with meditation and creative flow, we may be more apt to attract positive events. Some have reported that flow states can be contagious, meaning that when one community member experiences flow, others are more likely to as well. Many of those who have participated in my Free 28-Day Flow Challenges have reported an increase in positive synchronicities in their lives, or a general feeling of their lives flowing in a positive way.

What is The 28-Day Flow Challenge?

The 28-Day Flow Challenge is a free, personal journey anyone can undertake to uncover their own unique formula for connecting with their truest self through the power of flow. To participate, simply choose a 5-10 minute activity that you love to do and that easily puts you in a flow state. You can sign up below to be supported on your journey by our growing Flow Community, as well as to receive daily emails, free zoom calls and support.

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Flow is like any other habit. The more we practice creative flow in our lives, the more creative flow we experience.

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