Home » Ever been in a flow state? Wow, you must be autotelic then!

Ever been in a flow state? Wow, you must be autotelic then!

The terms "yoga" and "flow" are sometimes used interchangeably; for example, vinyasa flow yoga, feeling the energy move through your legs and waist as you perform a series of poses, and the flow of air in your lungs. However, in a broader sense, what does it mean to genuinely be in a "Flow State"? How can you get into a flow state at work? How do you know whether you're in it? We present you with tips and tricks to enter into a flow state and stay there!
a man sitting at his desk with lap top focusing seriously on his work without distractions

Have you ever become so engaged in a task that you forgot about the passing of time?

I mean, apart from when you were watching a thriller or horror movie! Imagine there are two types of people: those who find joy in the outcome, like losing 10 pounds, exercising 3 times a week, or making $20,000 online—these are all outcome-based goals.

Then there are those who find joy in the journey; they are called “autotelics.” They’re special because they focus solely on the process of doing something rather than the end result. They don’t care much about rewards or praise; they simply enjoy the activity itself and adapt their thinking and actions according to the circumstances.

Autotelics are more likely to experience being in the “flow” state. The activity itself becomes its own reward for them. Unlike outcome-based people, they exercise for the joy of exercising, they work for the joy of working. For them, the outcome is a pleasant side effect. Since they find joy in the activity itself, and not just in the end result alone, they tend to be more satisfied with life. Flow gives them a feeling of purpose and meaning, and it makes them happy and fulfilled.

Autotelics and the big 5 personality traits!

The Big 5 personality traits are extraversion (sociability), agreeableness (kindness), openness (creativity and curiosity), conscientiousness (thoughtfulness), and neuroticism (emotional instability).

Researchers have found that autotelics are usually low in neuroticism, which means they don’t get easily stressed or anxious. They are high in conscientiousness, meaning they are organized, responsible, and determined.

So, if you come across someone who’s always fully engaged in whatever they’re doing and seems to find joy in the process itself, regardless of the outcome, chances are they have an autotelic personality. They are like those people who get lost in the flow and simply love the ride!

How can you enter into a flow state?

When you are in the flow state, as defined by Csikszentmihalyi, you become so engrossed in a work you genuinely enjoy that you lose track of time. You start to feel less self-conscious and drift into serenity.

A woman practicing forearm plank while listening to music on head phones in her living room

A flow state appears like this. For example, listening to music while working out is one of the simplest ways to achieve the flow state. The only thing on your mind is how your body is moving. Time passes quickly. You hardly even realize how exhausted you are. Connection is the starting point for flow.

Dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain, stimulates sensations of motivation, pleasure, and reward while suppressing others, like hunger. Dopamine levels are higher when you are in a flow state, which can account for why you might not feel hungry or weary.

The brain’s locus coeruleus-norepinephrine signaling pathway (LC-NE) is thought to play a role in flow, according to a 2021 mini-review. This pathway activates whenever you have to make a difficult decision or when you are fully focused on a difficult task that matches your performance level.

When you’re in the flow state here’s what happens in your brain!

Deep within the labyrinth of your mind, there are 2 powerful networks: the central executive network (CEN) and the default mode network (DMN).

When you immerse yourself in a task that strikes the delicate balance between challenge and skill, the central executive network (CEN) takes center stage. It orchestrates your focus, allowing you to effortlessly navigate the intricacies of the task at hand. In this wondrous state of flow, your brain enters a paradoxical state of relaxation.

A man sitting on a sideway and playing his guitar.

Imagine you love playing the guitar. You have been practicing for a while and can play certain songs with ease. Now, you come across a new song that’s slightly more challenging, but you believe you can handle it. As you play and get into the flow, your mind becomes fully engaged and focused on the music. Surprisingly, you lose track of time as you navigate through the song.

On days when you find yourself seemingly doing nothing, the default mode network (DMN) stealthily emerges from the shadows. It allows your mind to daydream and wander. While on the surface, it might appear as though you’re idling around, inside your brain, the DMN is buzzing with vibrant activity. And here’s the fascinating part: even the DMN joins forces with the CEN during the flow state.

So, whether you’re immersed in the sweet intensity of a challenging task or lost in the ethereal realms of daydreams, your brain’s orchestra plays on, weaving the tapestry of your experiences in mesmerizing ways.

Simply said, being in a state of flow helps your brain to relax and focus, much like daydreaming but with increased brain activity.

How can you add more of your daily tasks into your flow state?

You can enter a flow state by creating art, drawing, painting, learning a craft, playing chess, shooting photos, or writing. A ‘flow state’ is merely awareness in motion.

You can enter a flow state by creating art, drawing, painting, learning a craft, playing chess, shooting photos, or writing. A ‘flow state’ is merely awareness in motion. Distractions disappear, and your attention turns to the present.

Since mindfulness is likewise built on ‘in-the-moment sensations’, it’s similar to the flow state. The core principle of mindfulness is to be present with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions without judging them, rather than trying to stifle or repress them.

Try flow-based forms of yoga to improve your flow state!

A woman practising yoga across the golden gate bridge.

According to a study, positions based on flow, such as the sun salutation, help you stay in a state of flow while lowering perceived stress. When you roll from one pose to the next on the mat, you are always in the present, conscious of your body and breath.

Give yourself at least 30 uninterrupted minutes each day to practice flow yoga!

Keep an eye on your thoughts as they arrive and leave. Whenever you have negative thoughts, focus on your breath and body to bring your attention back. Over time, and you can train yourself to distance yourself from negative emotions.

Find below, your instructions for practicing flow yoga at home. Consider it a crash course in flow yoga!

Interruptions and diversions make it more difficult for you to enter a state of flow. Make sure you have uninterrupted time to practice flow yoga; arrange the time; go somewhere private; or turn off the notifications on your phone.

Flow Yoga improves communication between areas of the brain. You may be able to manage and plan your activities, showing that you have higher executive functioning.

6 Tips for applying the flow state at work!

No matter what position you hold at work, achieving flow state at work can make you more effective and successful in reaching your objectives and advancing your career. To enter into a flow state, certain conditions need to be met:

  • Follow your calendar and plan your days to include as much focused time as feasible.
  • Turn off any distracting programs, silence all of your notifications, and play music without lyrics at this period.
  • Remember that it takes at least 10 to 15 uninterrupted minutes to enter a flow state.
  • The activity you choose should offer a balance between your skills and the level of challenge. It shouldn’t be overly simple or tough.
  • Flow is an ever-evolving, dynamic state. As your skill level gets better, you’ll need to keep adjusting the level of challenge to trigger a state of flow.

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