THE SCIENCE OF THE FLOW STATE
‘Flow State,’ a term coined by positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the late 1960s, is an ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform at our best — mentally and physically.’
Proven to contribute to overall human happiness and well-being, flow state is only accessed when you are completely focused and in the zone — often when risk or consequence is involved. So, for athletes especially this feeling may sound familiar or resonate with many of us.
Thanks to modern neuroscience, we know that a flow state is a distinct pattern induced in the brain via the interactions between 5 different neurotransmitters:
- Dopamine, floods your brain and increases attention, information flow and pattern recognition
- Norepinephrine, speeds up heart rate, muscle tension and respiration. It also triggers a glucose response and increases arousal and emotional control
- Endorphins, relieve pain and induce pleasure (the feeling is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine)
- Anandamide, released in exercise-induced flow states and elevates mood, relieves pain, aids in breathing and dilates blood vessels. It may feel similar to the psychoactive effects of marijuana
- Serotonin, fills the brain at the end (only felt once the flow state is gone) and leaves a blissful feeling
So... Pow line, or single track, or flow state... could it all be the same thing?