The neuroscience of finding your Flow

Many of us are familiar with the euphoria of finding your Flow. Whether you’re playing an instrument, competing in sport, or blazing through your work, the task happens effortlessly, a seamless rhythm of action and outcome on repeat.

When we are in our Flow we are more productive, our brain minimises distractions and our output is of a higher quality. This is our mental ‘sweet spot’ where we have both great strength and great ease.

What happens during Flow?

Our brain usually operates in beta waves – this activity looks spikey and fast. When in a state of Flow, these calm to steady alpha waves which are smooth and free flowing.

When we are in this alpha state, the noise generated by continual neural firing quietens, allowing fewer and deeper connections to be formed.

When someone jumps out from behind a wall to scare you or you pull your car sun visor down to find a spider staring at you, you receive a burst of adrenaline (energy) and cortisol (fear). This chemical cocktail causes you to recoil from the danger without having formed the thought process to do so.

In a similar way, Flow removes much of our thought from our actions but in a way which creates optimum performance and sharpens our abilities.

Creating Flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, considered to be one of the founders of positive psychology, was the first to identify and research the state of Flow. describes eight characteristics of Flow:

  1. Complete concentration on the task – Your brain doesn’t have the capacity for any additional information 
  2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback – You know exactly what you have to achieve and are aware of how well you are doing
  3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down) – Often, when in Flow, time passes much faster than expected
  4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding – You are doing the task because you want to and the activity is a reward in itself
  5. Effortlessness and ease – The activity becomes automatic and your actions seem effortless
  6. There is a balance between challenge and skills – The challenge must be testing for our skills, but not impossible
  7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination – There is no room for worry, fear, distraction or self-consciousness
  8. There is a feeling of control over the task – You aren’t concerned about failure 

Are you looking for strategies to maximise productivity and staff morale in your workplace?

The Practical Strategies to Maximise Employee Engagement masterclass is being held in Sydney from 18 – 19 May and Melbourne from 21 – 22 May. The two-day intensive course focuses on how to increase productivity, turn your employee experience into a competitive advantage and create an agile, inclusive workplace that attracts and retains high potential talent.

Facilitated by Sean Hall, Sean has first hand experience running a $10bn communications brand with 16 million customers and has designed employee experience strategy for 40,000 employees. He is now the founder of Energx where he works with organisations to unlock their most valuable asset: the collective energy and creativity of their people.

Submitted by Criterion Content Team

Criterion Content Team

This post has been written by the Criterion Conferences Content Team. Based in Sydney, we are an independent research organisation, producing over 90 conferences a year across a variety of industries. Our events, attended by thousands of senior delegates from the public and private sector, are designed to enrich, inspire and motivate. Our focus is on providing innovative, value adding content via our conferences and blogs like this are extension of that principle. You can view our conferences by visiting our website

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