The Flow State: Firing on all Cylinders?

In my new book, Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career, I wrote about the state of complete absorption in a task as a state known as flow.  The flow experience offered a way to unify all highly sensitive persons regardless of socioeconomic and employment status.  I realized that it is when we are engaged in work that is challenging (but not more than we can manage), that is completely absorbing, and that may become worth doing for its own sake offers us the opportunity to, both, remove ourselves from the cares of the world and quiet our brains (mercifully so at times).

Now, author Steven Kotler, explains the mechanism at work in our brains when we are in the flow state and it is surprisingly NOT what you think!  One might conclude that a flow state is when an individual’s brain is completely involved at 100%.  Actually, as Kotler articulates, it is through a shutting down of some brain functions that the flow state is so desirable.  The prefrontal cortex of our brains seems to work overtime in HSPs, but when we are in a flow state the brain is focused so intently on the task that other functions, like distinguishing between self and other, quiets down.  The “worrying” many HSPs do about just about everything, or as we might say, depth of processing, quiets down and the person is simply at one with the task or activity.

Why does this matter?  Because we HSPs many times ruminate endlessly about far too much and it is a source of frustration, irritation (to ourselves and others), and may prevent us from actually doing something with our time!  Too much thinking and not enough actual work equals nothing.  The flow state, though we aren’t realistically going to be engaging in it everyday, all day, is enormously beneficial for HSPs and should be one we seek out in our careers and our broader lives.

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