When you were growing up as a child, being in a flow state was practically automatic; a natural, almost effortless, and highly stimulating life experience filled with uncountable blissful moments.
Playing outside with sticks was somehow perceived as exhilarating, and your innate curiosity may have even driven you to discover what would happen if you rode your bike down a hill in the rain.
As an adult however, things began to change, responsibilities grew, and care for others took precedence- life seemed to be made up of much less flow and a lot more more hard work.
To supersede the ideals of a mainstream-culture that dilutes childlike self-expression while celebrating the stockpiling of possessions, a blend of Quantified Self applications and the fundamentals of the Flow Genome Project are now progressing humanity towards a solution to the tedium and mental drudgery of this modern life.
What Is A Flow State?
In positive psychology, flow is defined as the 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. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. A flow state can be entered while performing any activity, although it is most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a task or activity for intrinsic purposes.
In his book “The Rise Of Superman” Steven Kotler states:
Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, when you feel and perform your best. It’s the moment of total absorption. Time speeds up or slows down like a freeze-frame effect. Mental and physical ability go through roof, and the brain takes in more information per second, processing it more deeply.
What is Hacking?
Hacking refers to any method, shortcut, or skill that increases productivity and efficiency- essentially it's anything that solves an everyday problem in an inspired, practical, and ingenious manner.
Hacking originated in the 1980s among the first computer programmers devising and employing tricks to cut through information overload and organize their data. The type of shortcuts applied in learning how to accelerate brain function or human physiology is deemed “Bio-hacking,” which is the practice of engaging biology with the hacker ethic.
Bio-hacking has more recently been spotlighted over the past few years by notable enthusiasts like Tim Ferriss, Dave Asprey, and Natasha Vita-More.
How To Hack Into Flow
Take More Social Risks & Challenge Your Comfort Zone
Through doing what scares you, such as getting on stage or taking on a new work project that makes you gulp, your brain will be forced to adapt while your body will respond with epinephrine and cortisol. By leaning into your edge and pushing towards healthy challenges, flow state re-engages.
Increase Novelty & Complexity In Your Work
Some people color with crayons inside the lines and some do not. Whether you are typing, lecturing, or putting together a presentation, getting the mind into a flow state is not ubiquitous to everyone in the same way. To amplify flow during work, try changing your break schedule, using a stand up desk, and even mixing up your meetings to reflect a task order that makes you more excited to complete.
Challenge Yourself Physically
In most cases, exercising 3-5 times per week has been scientifically proven to be more powerful in overcoming depression than pharmaceuticals. Through behavioral modification devices that not only remind you to get up and sweat, but also tie in a social component to keep you sparked, getting into a flow state may be as simple as going outside for a quick run.
Find Your Flow With Quantified Self
Utilizing digital health devices, integrated life practices, and implementing self reinforcing positive feedback loops, flow state enthusiasts such as Jamie Wheal, Steven Kotler, and Jason Silva are quantifying, coaching, and training their minds to be in that almost magic-like flow state more often.
By measuring and tapping into the most important biological “self-signals,” essentially hacking their thoughts, these experts are now developing succinct methods of driving increased alpha brain waves in response life's monotony; yielding a more effective mental state and expanding the freedom to be more expressive in your chosen endeavors.
Found in the mHealth application Stress Doctor from Azumio, your iOS camera becomes a tool for visualizing respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), which is the rising and falling of your heart rate when you breathe in and out.
During 5-10 minute guided breathing exercises, the app provides real time bio-feedback based on heart rate and breath. When used properly, this data can help in lowering stress, reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, and strengthening your immune system.
The Azumio app is just the tip of the innovation-iceberg when it comes to the nuerofeedback tools we'll see in 2015 that will directly contribute to better living and human performance.
The Future Of Flow
At TEDxRockCreekPark, Judson Brewer MD PhD, stated our quest for the flow state simply as:
When we get out of our own way, we're happier, we're more engaged with the world, we're more compassionate, and as a result we can perform at our best. We all are awesome, we just have to get out of our own way.
When digital health provides a clear view from the looking-glass into our most intrinsic-self, we become empowered towards an enjoyable and fuller life lived more in the flow.
About the author: Josh Trent, NASM-CES, CPT, HLC, is a corrective exercise specialist and participatory sports technology expert with over 9 years in the fitness industry. His passion is to accelerate wellness evolution through the power of the Digital Health and Quantified Self movements. You can follow him on Twitter @wellnessforce, or through his website www.wellnessforce.com.
Questions? Start here