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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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Published on July 15, 2020

7 Ways to Improve Focus And Memory (Backed By Science)

7 Ways to Improve Focus And Memory (Backed By Science)

You know that feeling when you’re wide awake, but your brain isn’t? You want better focus and memory, but you just can’t seem to get there.

I call it “brain fog”—an annoying mental haze that results in difficulty focusing, trouble retaining information, and, as a result, compromised effectiveness.

For some reason, the fog always seems to sneak up on me when I need my brain power the most, like before an important presentation or on the day before a major project is due. However, with the right tools, I usually find my way back to better focus and memory in the nick of time.

Like the dense clouds that hover over city streets, brain fog can feel impossible to cut through.

Fortunately, the human brain is resilient. With a little training and redirection, it’s possible to reclaim your mind from the fog and all the frustration (and lost time) that comes with it.

Struggling to stay on task or retain information? Try these 7 science-backed methods for better focus and memory

1. Do a Short, Strenuous Workout

I had slept for a full eight hours and eaten a nutritious breakfast. I had even had an extra cup of coffee that morning. But none of it was enough to wake up my brain. (Of course, I also happened to be on an important deadline.) So, I did the last thing I could think of: I shut my laptop and hit the gym.

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There’s plenty of well-known evidence that physical activity can positively impact brain health, including a person’s memory. While many of exercise’s health benefits occur with regular, long-term activity, a single bout of exercise can also pack a significant, immediate, punch.

To improve your memory with exercise, think short bouts and high exertion. The more strenuous the workout, the better the brain boost. In a recent study, researchers found a group of people who rode on a stationary bike for 20 minutes had an improved ability to remember faces[1].

Rather than taking a long, leisurely walk on your lunch break, try running up and down the stairs a few times, or find a place to do some jumping jacks for a few minutes. You’ll not only jump start your energy and sharpen your focus, but you’ll improve your memory in the process.

2. Exercise After You Learn

If you’re starting a new job, learning a new skill, or just attending an important meeting, do yourself a favor and plan your workout for four hours afterward. Along with boosting your focus, a bit of high-intensity movement can also be a simple way to retain recently learned knowledge—but only if you exercise at the right time.

In their research, scientists had participants learn a set of picture-location associations. One group rode a stationary bike at high intensity right after learning, another group did the exercise four hours later, and the final group didn’t do any physical activity.

Using an MRI, researchers found the individuals who exercised four hours after learning retained the most information compared to the other learners[2].

3. Cut the Distractions

There’s a time and a place for a break to re-calibrate your brain, but these breaks should be intentional. Constant interruptions won’t do you any favors, except for interrupting your workflow, and they certainly won’t lead to better focus and memory.

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I find I’m most productive and focused when I don’t give myself the opportunity to mentally switch gears. That means I keep distractions to a minimum the best I can.

When I want to achieve a state of “flow,” I put my phone on airplane mode so I don’t receive notifications that will veer me off track. I also eliminate unnecessary distractions by keeping my desk and office space clear of clutter when possible, and closing all other tabs on my internet browser.

Since the brain isn’t hard-wired to multi-task, I also try not to listen to podcasts or distracting music, which compete for my attention. Instead, I opt for classical music, which has been thought to improve focus by enhancing brain activity[3].

4. Go Outside

When it comes to better focus and memory, a little fresh air and beautiful scenery can go a long way. Even if you simply sit outside for your lunch break, you’re giving your brain more oxygen, which can boost your energy levels and improve overall brain function.

Spending longer chunks of time in nature can have profound, immediate effects on the mind. One study found memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent in people who spent just one hour in nature[4].

Don’t let the cloudy or cold weather keep you from the outdoors; researchers found the same effects across the board. Surprisingly, even simply viewing nature photos had a similar effect on people.

If you absolutely can’t venture outside, temporarily move your workstation to an area with plants (or go out and buy a potted plant or some fresh stems for your home office). One study found that adding live plants to an office increased employee productivity by 15 percent and improved workers’ concentration[5].

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5. Meditate

Having a hard time focusing or remembering important details? Train your brain and body to stay in the present by practicing mindful meditation, which can also benefit your mental and physical health.

Scientific evidence shows meditating can actually change your brain structure, leading to a sharper short-term memory and an improved ability to learn[6]

Meditation can also help the brain with emotional regulation and sustained attention[7].

Luckily, you don’t have to be a pro to reap the benefits of meditation. One of my favorite ways to meditate is simply sitting with my eyes closed for five minutes and taking deep breaths from my belly, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Whenever I get distracted by an outside noise—or more likely, if my brain wanders to whatever I have coming up later on that day—I try to shift my focus back to my breathing. Those ten minutes make a huge difference in both my focus and my overall mood.

6. Grab a Cup of Coffee (or Two)

Fortunately for me, there’s actual scientific evidence behind my favorite afternoon pick-me-up habit: a hot cup of coffee. Can’t get out for a quick bout of exercise? Simply walk to your favorite coffee shop (or your kitchen), instead.

By getting up or going out for a drink, you’ll not only glean the benefits of some exercise and a much-needed break, but the process of sipping your drink, you’ll become more productive. A 2016 study found a caffeine jolt (as low as 40 mg, which is around four ounces of regular coffee) can improve alertness, attention span, and reaction time.

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A bit of caffeine can even help with vigilance, or the ability to sustain performance on boring tasks[8].

7. Do Something Else

Training your mind to remain in the present can lead to better focus and memory. However, zoning out or doing something else completely, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, has a similar effect on the mind.

Here’s why losing focus is more productive than you think: when you’re concentrated on something, your frontal cortex is busy resisting distractions. If you stay concentrated for too long, your ability to resist distractions will become fatigued, and that Netflix show or your Instagram feed will become all the more appealing[9]

Let your mind take a break from the task at hand if you’re losing steam. Instead of forcing yourself to focus, daydream, solve another problem, or engage in an engrossing, hands-on activity, like washing the dishes.

Sure, it may feel counterproductive to take your mind (and hands) off the project you’re trying to focus on, but you’ll probably come back to the task with a refreshed mind—and maybe, if you’re lucky, a kitchen full of clean dishes.

More Tips on Obtaining Better Focus and Memory

Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

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