Life As A “Flow” Experience

Flow Brained


Anything in life can be a flow experience.

Just go back and remind yourself of the steps for creating flow and you know that anything can be a flow activity, if you can get to “oneness” with it- forget yourself and get to that point where you are one with the music of whatever you’re doing.

What is amazing is that “flow” is like a drug or a medication.

We are concerned about the affects of drugs and medications, particularly psychotropic or psychological drugs.

What we don’t realize is that social interaction, the way we think, what we talk about and the social context around us affects us, particularly the brain, as much, if not more than drugs, in the long-term.

Your thoughts affect the development of neuropathways in the brain.

Negative and anxious conversations about “bad” things and people affect the amygdala of the brain which is a center of fear, negativity and anxiety.

The more you focus on the negative, the more extensive and tightly bound are the neuropathways that are connected to the negative memories that are held by the left hemisphere.

The words we use, the conversations we have, and the images and programs we take in have the power to create a DownSpiral of negativity that releases cortisol, a major stress hormone, adrenaline, thyroxin (long-term adrenalin), and ACTH, the body’s basic stress response.

Don’t like to take medication?

Don’t want to use drugs?

Then make “flow” the medication you use.

As it shifts you from your left hemisphere dominance to the larger picture of the right hemisphere, that sense of being one with the music, that subtle shift turns the “feel good” chemicals and gives you distance, perspective and it adds to the neuropositive reservoir.

The more you are in flow and the more you experience being “one with the music”, the more you build it into your life, you are building your reservoir of psychological capital and you are also building a “buffer zone” of positivity.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Kelsey Abbott

    I’ve been playing with flow for years, but have really focused on it in the last year. It’s a practice. It’s an unforced focus. It’s a way of being instead of doing. It’s being completely one with our body and our task. The second we step outside ourselves, it vanishes.

  • Alan Cohen

    I have only experienced the sensation of flow a few times in my life. When giving lectures, ocasonally while coaching a client, and, perhaps, more than anything, when singing or engaged in some sort of a creative pursuit. The irony of flow, for sure, is that once I have realized that I was in flow, I am no longer in flow. The moment has passed, and I am no longer present. The idea that we are most likely in flow when we are fully expressed in our strengths, and when we are aligned with our sense of purpose, and working the positive neurons of our brain, opens up more possiblities for me in terms of increasing these experiences.

  • art marr

    Another and way simpler interpretation of flow

    The study of the affective concomitants of a meaningful and focused engagement finds it best contemporary advocate in the work of the humanistic psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term ‘flow experience’ to reflect self-reports of artists, athletes, and other individuals who uniformly reported a very intense and positive affective state when engaged in tasks that had very high and consistent meaning that engaged their undistracted attention. Dr. C’s presents a ‘top down’ perspective, which although highly metaphorical in nature, nonetheless conforms to neurological truths.

    These truths are quite simple, although they are commonly obfuscated and mis-represented in almost all commentary on the subject. To wit, highly meaningful or challenging behaviors elicit the activity of mid-brain dopamine systems, which cause a feeling of aroused alertness, but not pleasure. Because an individual performing highly meaningful or challenging activities is not engaged in perseverative thinking (rumination, worry, or distraction), relaxation also occurs, which in turn raised opioid levels in the brain. It is the combined interaction of both of these systems that elicits the state of euphoria that is flow, as opioid and dopamine systems mutually enhance or ‘bootstrap’ each other in the brain. This ‘bottoms up’ perspective is ultimately much simpler than Dr. C’s often convoluted perspective, and suggests procedures for eliciting flow that are much simpler too.

    A much more detailed analysis of the flow experience is found on pages 71-74 of the follow free e-book on affective states and rest, which is derived from the research research of the affective neuroscientist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, a preeminent expert on the neural processes that underlie affective states, who was kind to vet the book for accuracy and endorse the completed work.

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute