Are You Missing the Moments of Flow in Your Life?By Cara Bradley
During a peak experience in the middle of a college track race when I was 19 years old, I experienced an exhilarating sense of aliveness. I felt connected to my body and my mind in a way that was beyond anything I’d ever encountered. Best of all, I ran faster than ever.
Decades later, I now know that what I experienced then is called “flow”—a way of fully participating in life where we feel better and perform better.
Fully Alive in High Definition
Flow is not just about “paying attention on purpose” with your mind. Think of it as an enhanced “in the moment” experience where you are fully absorbed in whatever you are doing, i.e. dancing, writing, solving a math problem, painting, performing, etc. In short, when in flow you not only experience intense mental clarity and the pleasure that comes with it, but depending on the activity, you may also experience heightened sensory clarity, faster decision making, and an increase in pattern recognition and risk taking.
Remember that flow is an “all in” experience when you lose your sense of self and self-consciousness and enjoy the lightness of being beyond beyond everyday doubt, fear and worry—at least for a short while.
You’ve been in flow before, though you likely didn’t call it that. For instance, many people report experiencing flow when:
- Dancing without inhibition
- Flying down a mountain on skis
- Playing with their dog
- Bodysurfing at the beach
- Singing along at a live concert
- Reading to a child
- Making love
Flow: Where Action and Awareness Merge
Sometimes called being “in the zone,” flow is often described as a period of intensely focused peace. As explained in Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, such peace is a result of our prefrontal cortex temporarily powering down and quieting our inner critic. It’s called “transient hypofrontality,” and it frees us from our default mode of battling chronic doubts and fears.
Furthermore, according to Dr. Ned Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of Driven to Distraction, flow is a heightened state where “action and awareness merge, time flies, self vanishes, performance goes through the roof.”
Better yet, ask any master musician or athlete, and they’ll tell you that flow can feel like being “at one” with the mountain, the wave, the guitar. In flow, we run faster, jump higher, ride the wave, and feel the notes more deeply. And you don’t have to be an athlete or musician to reap t