Get Into The Flow: How To Access Optimal Creativity, Productivity & Happiness

On the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #84, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Taylor a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, instructor, and flow state practitioner. We had an enlightening conversation about the neuroscience of creativity, productivity and happiness and how to hack it. We discuss what a flow state is, ways to access it for healing and how to use flow for burnout recovery at the workplace.

This blog post summarizes just a few of the golden nuggets from our insightful conversation, for the full details listen to the entire episode here or on your favourite podcast platform by searching for the Self-Care Goddess podcast.

How Do We Define A Flow State?

Flow is a mental state which releases happy chemicals resulting in fulfillment, joy or euphoria. It is extreme pure happiness. Chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin are released that make us feel nice feelings. Flow is a healing state and science identifies flow via brainwaves. It is a different heightened form of brainwaves than normal brain activity. Being in flow activates the automatic nervous system so both parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system are active at the same time resulting in deep intense focus. Creativity flows out like jazz musicians (who are often in flow). Flow state is not only an absence of depression / anxiety but a feeling of fulfillment, joy and restoration at the same time. There are different stages of flow:

  1. Group Flow: We can be in flow by engaging in brainstorming with a group. Group flow is one of the easiest ways to get into when everyone is on the same level and has the same understanding of a project. The free-flowing ideas build up with each other when the group is intently engrossed in that idea.
  2. Chefs: For chefs who love to cook, the meditative action of being hyper focused in the moment meditating on just one thing that requires a little skill can be a flow state.
  3. Sports: Free flying, diving or climbing are good examples of flow inducing sport Extreme and immediate triggering release of endorphins induce flow states in sports which can enhance overall performance.
  4. Mini Flow: We can get into a mini flow by completing a task. Keep a to do list and completing tasks / goals for the day by checking them off creates feelings of satisfaction releasing dopamine.

Listen to my amazing podcast with Kashif Khan “Decipher YOUR Genetic Code For Optimal Wellbeing”, episode #36, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

How Do We Access Flow States?

There are different ways of accessing the flow state unique to everybody depending on skill set versus challenge. It has to be something that’s challenging enough, within your capabilities but not too challenging that it causes anxiety. If it’s not challenging enough, it will cause boredom. So, it has to be a little over your comfort zone to trigger flow. The ratio is about 4% – You have to do something that is just 4% more challenging than what you normally handle. Some flow state characteristics include:

  • Hyper focus, being zoned in.
  • The sense of effortless effort. Everything feels like you don’t have to think about it beforehand.
  • Action and awareness merge. Your actions are premeditating your thoughts.
  • Intrinsically rewarding. We want to see gratification at the end but the actual experience is rewarding.
  • The right balance between the skills and challenge.
  • Doing something you love that makes you feel most like yourself.
  • Gratitude journaling that gets you focused in a moment.
  • Doing yoga and breathwork
  • Being in the “now”. Practicing mindfulness in the present moment.
  • Painting, cooking or learning a new instrument
  • Group sports once a week being a part of soccer team, hiking etc.
  • As a parent, experience flow with kids by doing art together (without your phone around).

The aim is to access flow for 30 minutes every day. We can have mini flows or extreme flows. Include the big ones on the weekend once a month, but the mini ones can be small daily menial tasks. For example, set the timer to wash the dishes in 10 minutes – the immediate feedback when you complete on time keeps you in the zone focused.

I invite you to listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #67 “How Can You Create Freedom Through Fitness?”, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Flow Science – How Can It Help With Healing?

Flow states release oxytocin. The focus, clarity and concentration biochemically release neuro transmitters.

  • Being in flow helps with healing by releasing nitric oxide. Researcher Steven Kotler healed his Lymes disease through flow state by surfing. He realized that that it can heal through the nitric oxide flushing the body. Nitric oxide will flush all the stress hormones out of the body to reset the nervous system and most auto-immune condition happen because the nervous system goes haywire.
  • A new meta-analysis from 2022 shows that flow states heal burnout as well. Being in flow is restorative Self-Care to recharge your body and reset the nervous system while carrying out daily tasks. Everyone has the ability to access flow state, whether it’s during a physical activity, a creative endeavor or simply a mundane task because the body wants to heal itself. We only have to give it the right environment.

How to Master Your Mindset & Create Your Dream Life Today? I invite you to listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #5 with Dr. Sachin Patel, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Stress, Anxiety & Adrenal Fatigue

According to research, 25% of anxiety has increased worldwide since 2020. Chronic stress is a case of our environment today, where there is a lot against us. Everyone needs to learn how to care for their body, mental health and lower the effects of stress. For reducing anxiety and burnout, the flow state can be a lifestyle protocol. In the scientific world adrenal fatigue is called Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal (HPA) Axis Dysfunction. This is a normal adaptive response when we feel stress. For example, if our ancestors were faced with a threat on seeing a tiger their hands would get sweaty so they could climb a tree easily. These little triggers happen for survival – fight or flight mode. This is good positive stress but the problem is when it becomes chronic perceived stress which can make the HPA axis maladaptive, where it sets off reactions of stress such as butterflies in the stomach, sweating or digestive dysfunction and other stress stimuli when there isn’t any threat to the body.

There are two stages to adrenal fatigue:

  1. Wired & tired phase – Experiencing high cortisol & energy (go-go-go attitude) not realizing that your body is stressed but it is. One sign could be not going to the toilet frequently, suffering from constipation. There are no issues with sleep in the wired and tired scenario because you hit the pillow and are out.
  2. The burnout phase – Especially in the workplace, a tremendous amount of people are experiencing burnout although this is less frequent compared to the wired & tired phase. Here people experience absolute shutdown. They could be in bed asleep all day but can’t seem to get enough sleep & have low energy. Burnout is often hard to identify until it’s at the end stages.

To learn “How To Build YOUR Resilience?” read my blog post.

Strategies To Avoid Stress/Burnout

“Stress is our perception of stress” Using the below listed restorative recharging techniques or accessing flow states can help us feel happy and better manage stress:

  • Good quality sleep
  • Connect to your ancestral diet
  • Incorporate herbal medicine like chamomile tea, basil / bay leaf for upset stomachs etc.
  • Be in nature because nature is awe inspiring. It calms the monkey mind immediately with multiple streams of sensory input like sounds of the water and birds.
  • Unleash & push creativity
  • Feel gratified upon task completion
  • Eat nutrient dense food

Do you know Why YOU should Consider a Plant-Based Diet? Read my blog here for more information.

Flow & Workplace Productivity

At the workplace we can access the flow state by engaging in tasks with a definite beginning and end. It is not the end result but the immediate feedback we are looking for. For example, while painting we see the effects of our efforts on the on the canvas or while making music we can hear if it’s good / bad. Thus it is not necessarily the end but experience & immediate feedback during the process which is a major characteristic of flow. Set clear, definable goals. When you want to get into flow at work, shut the door, put a sign “Do Not Disturb” on the door for 30 minutes and take off all notifications on your phone. Focus and write a to do list that you can achieve within that day, keeping it a little bit more than you would normally do. Put on meditative music to create the environment to enter flow while you are working. The concept of slowing down is about recharging and resetting. The results of your efforts are incredible if you keep practicing this. Once it becomes a habit, you can access flow states faster.  

Want to know How Yoga Can Help You Detox – Mentally, Physically & Emotionally? Listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #25 with Hitu Jugessur, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

Here are this week’s self-care tips. For past podcast guests self-care habits, check out my Instagram or Facebook page.

Connect with Nicole:

Program starts: Sep 12th 2023

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Take Home Message

Being in flow states can help you conquer anxiety and move into a vibrant, present and fulfilling life. It is mandatory for most people to:

  • Reduce coffee consumption
  • Eat more protein

Make your word as good as gold. If you say something and you’re not going to do it, then don’t do it. If you say you are going to do it, then better do it. This will make people trust you and also helps with holding boundaries with yourself, family & other people. If you believe in something and want that to happen, stick to your word as if it is as good as gold. Living authentically and building integrity and trust from others and yourself is an amazing achievement.

For free guided meditation videos and Breathwork demonstrations subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Listen to the full podcast episode #84 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.

I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.