According to Michael Vallejo, LCSW, a family and child therapist at Mental Health Center Kids, hobbies can play a big role in accessing flow state. “Hobbes induce a flow state by striking a balance between an activity’s level of difficulty and a person’s skill level,” he explains. While continuing to progress in a life-long hobby can ignite certain levels of flow, trying new things can awaken the flow state within—here’s why.
What Is Flow State?
The beauty of the flow state is that, when you access it, you are completed immersed in whatever you’re doing. “Your perception of time is often warped, seeming like time slows down or that no time has passed at all,” Robledo explains. In this state, your senses become heightened and you’re able to synchronize your action and awareness without really thinking about it. “In flow, our ego takes a backseat and our inner critic dials down, resulting in a state of more free self-expression and liberation of our creative essence,” Robledo explains.
Accessing flow state regularly is important because it can have profound impacts on your life, as it often means getting out of your own way. “You will instinctually know what needs to be done without overthinking it,” says Stephanie Mara Fox, a somatic nutritional counselor. “Less stress can be experienced in this state, increasing a relaxation response in the body,” she adds.
The Benefits of Flow State
One of the biggest benefits of flow state is that it allows you to get in the zone and experience high levels of focused productivity with fewer distractions. “Since a person is so engaged in the experience they’re having, self-consciousness can decrease as the only thing that matters is the task in front of them,” Fox notes.
According to Vallejo, another benefit of the flow state is that it results in a greater sense of happiness and self-confidence. “When you have these positive feelings, your inner critic gets silenced, and you become more motivated to explore opportunities and overcome challenges in life,” he explains.
Flow state can also promote increased feelings of connectedness, improve creativity levels, and give you a greater sense of clarity. Additionally, Robledo says it can support the ability to “learn and integrate new knowledge and skills.”
On a scientific level, Vallejo says “EEG data shows that flow states are characterized by high theta waves in the frontal areas of the brain and moderate alpha waves in the frontal and central areas of the brain.” These theta and alpha brainwaves are associated with relaxation and calmness, and “harnessing them by regularly engaging in your hobbies can help with reducing stress and reaching your goals,” he adds.
How to Access Flow State Through Hobbies
Hobbies are great for flow state because immersing yourself in an activity that challenges you can help ignite the flow state. “Learning new hobbies is a great way to experience flow state more often due to the very nature of having to learn,” Robledo explains. “When you are learning, there is a level of having to step into the unknown and combine thoughts to create new solutions, which promotes flow state,” she adds. A new hobby, in particular, can help heighten this because it encourages us to concentrate harder and be more present in an effort to learn a new skill.
“When you’re learning a new hobby, you’re often curious and embrace an essential component of flow state, which is passion,” Robledo says, noting that passion means a drive to try a new thing, regardless of the external results. “A lot of times, the pressure to succeed and desire for validation can become one of the biggest downfalls, preventing us from experiencing flow state,” Robledo adds. She recommends going at new hobbies with an open mind, letting the pressure go, and having fun with it.
The Best Hobbies for Flow State
Hobbies are incredibly personal, and the general consensus is that any new hobby can help you find your flow state. “Anything that a person genuinely wants to learn and finds challenging to do can initiate a flow state,” says Fox. With that said, Robledo says the hobby needs to meet a little more criteria in order for flow state to potentially occur. “It’s important that whatever hobby you take on, you have a target goal and that’s clear,” she explains. “This doesn’t always have to be a physical target—it just means you have to know what you’re attempting to set out and do, that way you can assess whether you met your target,” she adds. Robledo also says that hobbies that provide immediate feedback can increase flow state, and make it easier to get into altogether. “This is because you can immediately correct your mistakes, amplify your rapid problem-solving skills, and allow yourself to shift your target and exertion level accordingly.”
While everyone’s new hobby will be different, Vallejo says that some are more likely to create flow “because they require your full attention and aren’t difficult to complete.” Some examples of challenging but not too difficult hobbies to try include running, cycling, cooking, painting, drawing, gardening, pottery, and yoga.
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