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Access Your Mind’s Full Potential by Experiencing the “Flow”

Access Your Mind’s Full Potential by Experiencing the “Flow”

In life, you will meet people that live for a thrill, like base jumping, cave diving, or any number of other extreme activities. These individuals have an insatiable drive that pushes them to experience new things and push them to their own physical limits.

This state of mind allows them to have peak performance while completing a task. When experiencing this peak, one’s inner critic is hushed—this feeling is both powerful and addictive. To achieve this feeling, it takes more than a motivational speech, it is about the techniques that you can apply to your own life to lead you on the path that improves your performance and to experience the drive to dedicate yourself to your work.

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Experience the “Flow”

The human brain is capable of naturally replicating the effects of five different drugs without being put into a coma. When you experience this, you will access the feeling of being able to accomplish anything. This particular moment or feeling is known as “flow” and every individual may experience it without touching any dangerous drugs.

This optimal state of mind is experienced when someone is so committed and involved in their own activity that nothing else matters to them. It has been said that while only a small percent of the brain is activated when in a normal state, additional parts must be activated to achieve flow—the truth is actually the opposite.

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Parts of the brain shut down when in the flow state, ignoring the inner critic, complex decision making, and sense of will. This gives the experience of liberation, aided in the release of chemicals in the brain like serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and others.

Giving the Best Without Effort

Flow has been said to be the most addictive state of being, and whether you know it or not you’ve already experienced it. This is the times when you’ve lost track of time, had a strong sense of control, couldn’t simply stop a particular task, were on high alert, and your actions were effortless.

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Some people may call this getting into their “groove”, and it is actually true. Tasks are completed easily and the moments are genuinely being enjoyed. This is experienced by many artists, writers, and scientists. It is how they are able to work such long hours on a beloved project. This is also the drive that makes people risk their lives to take part in the extreme sports that they enjoy. You build up momentum and focus all of your mental and physical energy on one task.

The Triggers

Triggers can be psychological, environmental, creative, or social.

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  • You must consciously work with your mind to create a state of flow. Clearly outline your goals, to stay away from apathy. Request immediate feedback in order to stay in the flow state. If the task is beyond your skill set, avoid fear by finding the balance between your own capabilities and the task at hand.
  • Know that your own environment can either induce or reject flow. Say yes to taking risks, as you will enter a more focused state for survival move. New contexts lead to complexity, uncertainty, and novelty, allowing you to expand your knowledge and grow your skills. Be aware of your environment with all five of your senses.
  • Explore your own creativity. Link new ideas together to experience the sought after chemical reaction in the brain. Know that unfamiliar approaches will occur, and don’t be afraid to take the risk.
  • Socially, a group should establish familiarity to induce their own group flow. Let your ego go and be humble about the tasks that you accomplish. Your sense of control will allow you to choose the challenges that you overcome, and make you responsible for your actions, leading to a stronger focus.

Being in control of your own potential is vital in taking the path to experiencing flow. Varying flow triggers will work for each person, so find out what works for you so that you can not only enjoy your work but reach your full potential.

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Sasha Brown

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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