In this era of heightened anxiety that we live in, it is often difficult to find relief from our racing thoughts and put our minds at ease. If you work long hours and come home to navigate a complex family life, you may find yourself frazzled – a bundle of prickly nerves. Whether or not you have an artistic vocation, one form of relief from the bombardment of anxiety that we all face on a daily basis is – to put it bluntly – whatever gets you into a flow state.
What is a flow state you ask? It is a psychological term coined by the Czech academic MihalyCsikszentmihalyi. It is a term that describes the state the human mind enters when it becomes completely absorbed in a task. Scientists, musicians, computer coders, video editors and many other individuals will enter this state when they are completely consumed by the work they are performing. It is as though their actions and their psychological process synchronize, matching up precisely.
In a flow sate, you almost feel as though you don’t exist, you enter a trance-like state where you experience feelings of ecstasy and unity. When people talk about the “muses speaking through them”, they are specifically talking about this ecstatic flow state, where the artists feels as though they have become the instrument of some higher power. The feeling has been described by several notable artists in relation to the sensation of running water – a force of nature that is at once awesome and soothing. Michaelangelo allegedly refused food or water for days on end while painting the Sistine chapel; it’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t in a flow state.
Here are a few features to keep in mind when trying to achieve a flow state:
- The activity must have clear objectives and a sense of linear progress.
- One’s own skill set must be matched to the objectives within reason.
- The project in question must have a verifiable element where you can easily observe your progress.
If you are attempting to write a symphony in the style of Amadeus Mozart and you can’t even play Bah-Bah Black Sheep on the recorder, it’s going to be an issue; it’s going to create anxiety. Visiting your local Long & McQuade Music Lesson Centre to sharpen your skills on whichever instrument you choose will help you along in your journey to achieve a satisfactory flow state.
As your skill level progresses, the tasks that were once challenging become a total snooze-fest; thus, as you develop your skills you are motivated to push yourself into new territory, which is how people become experts, pros and virtuosos.
This type of experience is useful for several reasons: primarily, flow state and personal development seem to go hand in hand. There is, as of yet, no formal data explaining why this is so, but it is plainly verifiable. Additionally, many people are able to monetize what they create in a flow state, so that they can make a living off of something that is already improving their quality of life. In this sense, finding an activity in which you can lose yourself and achieve a flow state is innately good. So whether it’s pottery, dance, karate or guitar, find a way to lose yourself – the results are overwhelmingly positive.