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State of Flow

A woman smiling with her head tilted as if looking upwards, eyes closed.

Flow is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel and perform our best. In a flow state, many different neurochemical sequences occur. When being productive in the lead-up to and into the peak of our working phase, we release neurochemicals like Norepinephrine and Dopamine which raise our heart rate, help us focus and improve our ability to recognise patterns.

As we progress, our Endorphins kick in, which actually distorts our perception of time, making the task feel more effortless and enhancing our ability to link ideas. When we reach our peak working phase, Anandamide is released which actually dissolves stress and pain, boosts our cognition, enhances relaxation and intuition and helps us creatively problem-solve.

Once we’ve entered the transition phase of our flow state - the recovery phase - we slip back into our parasympathetic nervous system state. Here, we start to release Oxytocin and Serotonin. Having these chemicals pumping through your body is the equivalent of giving yourself a nice warm hug. The upside is that increased levels of Serotonin and Oxytocin will not only help you achieve a happier, more positive and satisfied mental state, but it will also strengthen your immune system and enhance energy stores.

A woman demonstrating her thinking state or the state of flow.

Typically, it takes 15 minutes of productivity to click into a state of flow, after which, your brain only has enough glucose for approximately 50 - 90 minutes of quality productivity before it needs to rest and refuel. If you don’t honour this, you start to sink into what we call the ‘grey zone’ where you’re uninspired, unproductive and often unwell.

By understanding the biochemistry and physiology of flow, you can create boundaries and schedule time for a series of flow states so you create at your best. It's also important to understand that we all have different ways of working. Some of us work best in the morning, and some are most productive at night. No matter what your preference, the key to optimal productivity is to get clear on the best way you work and how many ‘flow states’ you can achieve in your day and your week.

If you work to unrealistic timings, you’re only going to create further stress. Get strategic and spend some time mapping out your week to see what time you have available for flow states. Then create nice strong boundaries around those pockets of time and commit to them! Create accountability buddies (such as a family member, another student, or a professional) to help create consistency. When you map out the week and stick to it, you also create containers of downtime to ensure you have time and energy to rest and refuel for the next flow state.

Neurochemical sequence diagram

"How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you" ~ Rupi Kaur

Looking to improve your optimal state of consciousness? Book a Kinesiology and Coaching session with Katherine Anderson.


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