Magazine article Psychology Today

The Physiology of Flow

Magazine article Psychology Today

The Physiology of Flow

Article excerpt

AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO GETTING IN THE ZONE

WE'RE ALL CAPABLE of getting in the zone: Writing, running, playing music, even video gaming can sometimes bring on the blissful state of total mental absorption.

The key to letting selfconsciousness go and achieving flow is pairing your skill level with just enough difficulty. Here's what happens in our bodies when complete concentration grips our minds.

-Katherine Schreiber

EARS

During intense concentration, blood flow is diverted to brain regions that process relevant, rather than random, sounds, says Jyoti Mishra, an attention researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. That's why we can tune out ticking clocks, passing cars, and even hearing our own name. Call it aural fixation.

STOHACH

When you're gunning toward a goal and engrossed in obtaining a reward, primal needs like hunger don't easily enter awareness, explains Michael Esterman, cofounder of Boston University's Attention and Learning Lab.

LIMBS

Plunging into a pursuit of your choice dials down pain perception so that aches and exhaustion "have no chance to register in consciousness," explains the father of flow, Mlhaly Csikszentmihalyi. …

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