Flow state is a profound state of optimized task performance. It's when we're able to disconnect from our thoughts and carry out a task with full focus, without having to think.
- It takes a certain combination of skill, motivation and attention to slip into a peak-performing flow state.
Natural nootropics for flow state may help to initiate and enhance the brain functions associated with it. In this guide, we'll discuss how flow state affects the brain, and how brain-boosting nootropics might help us get into that sweet flow state zone a little more easily.
What is Flow State?
Have you ever lost track of time and self-awareness while doing something you enjoyed? If so, you may have been experiencing flow state.
Flow is a psychological state encompassed by "energized concentration, optimal enjoyment, full involvement (in a task), motivation and intrinsic interest," according to one study.<1>
In other words, flow is a state of optimized task-completion. It can occur during a continuous task in which we have clear goals, get a quick response, and have a decent mix of skills and motivational challenge to complete it. For instance, expert meditators often experience flow state during their practice.
Have You Experienced Flow State?
Think of a time when you were doing something you thoroughly enjoyed. For example, maybe you painted an entire picture or completed a workout without your conscious thoughts interfering.
Maybe you were startled when you realized how much time passed while you were focused on the task. This is how flow state works.
The analytical part of our brain shuts down and our skillset takes over, allowing us to become one with the task and optimize our performance. This makes it easier to avoid distracting thoughts and external stimuli.
Flow State and Explicit vs. Implicit Systems
Experts say that flow state is associated with explicit and implicit memory and learning functions in the brain.
- Explicit memories are memories that can be consciously and intentionally recalled, such as experiences, events and facts.
- Implicit memories are subconscious memories that tend to involve motor skills, such as driving or painting.
The explicit memory and learning system is linked to "higher cognitive functions" while the implicit system is linked to "skill-based learning."
Research shows that the brain shuts down the explicit, more analytical system during flow state while activating the implicit system.<2> Thus, cognitive control is a vital aspect of aspect of flow state potential.
Who Experiences Flow State?
Everyone experiences flow state throughout their lives. For example, athletes and competitors like soccer and poker players often experience flow state during competition.
- Creators like writers and musicians also experience flow state when they get deep into their crafts. We can even experience it while playing chess or doing the dishes.
It's as if we eventually become one with whatever craft we decide to master and carry out continuously.
Our brains stop second-guessing our skills and worrying about the outcome of our actions. Then, we get a sense of satisfaction from completing the task we set out to. This may explain why flow state has been linked to happiness in various studies.
Flow and Creativity
In addition, flow state is often associated with working on creative tasks like drawing or poetry. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is famous for his research and findings on flow state and creativity.
Csikszentmihalyi has shown that when we create, we tend to slip into a trance-like state of pleasurable task-completion. He believes this state only occurs at a cross point between high challenge and high skill level.
Here's Csikszentmihalyi's visual representation of how flow works:
Flow state is not exclusive to creative tasks. There is no telling when a person's mixture of skill and motivation will take over.
The presence of flow state just depends on which task a person is working on, their skill level, and their internal motivation to complete it.
However, certain brain functions are linked to flow state regardless of the task. We'll discuss them below.
How Does the Brain Function During Flow State?
Various brain functions and neural connections work together to induce flow state. In this section, we'll go through which brain functions are involved. Then, we'll speculate how we might strengthen the brain to induce flow state a little easier.
Heightened Focus and Cognitive Control
- Flow state is linked to increased theta activity and moderated alpha activity in the frontal and right central regions of the brain.
- Theta waves quiet down the explicit system so that we can focus on the task without stress. This may help induce that calm focus and cognitive control associated with flow state.
- Alpha waves reflect the workload of our working memory during flow state.
- As such, we can speculate that increasing theta activity and moderating alpha wave activity for focus may help induce flow state.
Flow Suppresses the Explicit System via Transient Hypofrontality
- Transient hypofrontality is the brain's suppression of the conscious, analytical explicit system in the brain's prefrontal cortex. It is associated with meditation, dreaming and other altered states of consciousness.
- EEG scans show the explicit system doesn't work very hard during flow state; but the implicit system does.
- Thus, strengthening the implicit system functions may help induce flow state.
Less Stress and Anxiety
- Flow is associated with less stress and anxiety because it slows down activity in the prefrontal cortex.
- Studies show that excessive physiological arousal may hinder the ability to slip into flow.<3>
- Thus, buffering the stress hormone cortisol and excitatory neurons for anxiety and stress reduction may help induce a state of flow.
Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Endorphins, Anandamide, and Serotonin Release
- One study shows that those who tend to experience flow state often have higher levels of dopamine available for use in the "striatal regions" of the brain.<4>
- Another study proves the same.
- Dopamine helps optimize focus and motivation for flow state.
- In addition, flow state has shown to involve the release of brain chemicals like norepinephrine, endorphins, anandamide and serotonin.
- This flooding of chemicals makes flow extremely rewarding and addicting.
- We may be able to help induce flow state by increasing the release of these necessary neurotransmitters.
Flow Influences Cerebral Bloodflow
- A study shows that cerebral blood flow increased in the brain's left inferior frontal gyrus and left basal ganglia during flow state.
- Thus we can speculate that increasing cerebral blood flow in certain areas of the brain may help induce flow state.
- However, necessary brain areas may differ depending on the task.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Flow State
Some Mind Lab Pro® natural nootropic ingredients boost similar brain functions as flow. Thus we believe they may also:
- increase our ability to slip into flow state
- harmonize with existing flow state to amplify its effects
Some of the best nootropics for flow state found in Mind Lab Pro® include:
L-Theanine is a natural nootropic known for its calming effects on the brain. It is an ingredient found in green tea, and it may work better when combined with caffeine.
This natural nootropic has a ton of research to back up its positive effects. Actually, Zen monks have been using it for centuries to induce calm focus for flow during meditation.
Studies on L-Theanine
- Studies show it can improve focus and buffer excitatory brain chemicals to improve cognitive dysfunction.<5>
- One specific study shows L-Theanine can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Another study proves that it moderates alpha wave activity, similar to what occurs during flow state.
- These alpha waves allow L-Theanine to help us focus on time-consuming tasks. Thus why we believe L-Theanine may be helpful for flow state.
- Yet another study shows L-Theanine may improve cerebral blood flow, mood and cognition. These are all important parts of flow state.
Bacopa Monnieri is an herbal nootropic with many positive effects on cognition, especially for aging men and women. Specifically, it helps increase serotonin and GABA in the brain.
GABA is an inhibitory brain chemical that buffers excitatory neurons like cortisol to balance responses to stress. Then, serotonin regulates brain functions associated with mood and stress levels.
Seeing as flow state also involves more serotonin and less stress, Bacopa Monnieri may be helpful for inducing flow state.
Studies on Bacopa Monnieri
- BM has shown to help with learning and new memory storage.
- One study shows it has antidepressant effects, which may help us calm down in order to concentrate easier.
- Another study shows BM may balance neurotransmitter activity in the cerebral cortex.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine may help induce flow state easier by replenishing depleted brain chemicals.
For example, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine replenishes depleted catecholamine chemicals associated with aging.
These chemicals aid in the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. As such, replenishing depleted catecholamines may increase focus, memory and motivation for flow state.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine may be especially helpful for aging men and women. Let's discuss the research below.
Studies on N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
- L-Tyrosine has shown to help counteract working memory depletion associated with aging.
One study shows that low catecholamines levels are linked to memory issues.
- Thus, increasing these levels can help improve memory, which is important for task-completion and flow state.
- Another study shows that L-Tyrosine can enhance cognition, especially in stressful situations.<6>
- Ultimately, stress reduction can help induce flow state.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract
Maritime Pine Bark Extract may help with high-performance thinking related to flow state. Specifically, it can support cerebral blood flow and moderate free radicals that damage cells.
Since flow state is linked to improvements in cerebral blood flow, this natural nootropic may also hep activate flow state.
Studies on Maritime Pine Bark Extract
- One study shows the proanthocyanidins in Maritime Pine Bark Extract can reduce our oxidative stress response.
- Another study shows it can indeed improve blood flow.
- Thus, we can speculate Maritime Pine Bark Extract might be helpful in initiating flow.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for flow state enhance multiple cognitive functions at once to unleash 100% Brainpower™ for superior task performance.
The Mind Lab Pro® Universal Nootropic™ design provides optimized cognitive enhancement for all states of consciousness. In addition, it reduces stress reactions to increase relaxation for supreme concentration.
By optimizing all brain functions associated with flow state, Mind Lab Pro® is the most powerful and effective nootropic stack on the market for unleashing superior task performance.
- Marino Bonaiuto et al. Optimal Experience and Personal Growth: Flow and the Consolidation of Place Identity. Front Psychol. 2016; 7: 1654.
- Dietrich A. Neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the experience of flow. Conscious Cogn. 2004 Dec;13(4):746-61.
- Peifer C et al. The relation of flow-experience and physiological arousal under stress — Can u shape it? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2014.
- de Manzano Ö et al. Individual differences in the proneness to have flow experiences are linked to dopamine D2-receptor availability in the dorsal striatum. Neuroimage. 2013 Feb 15;67:1-6.
- Boddu V. S et al. A Focus on the Effect of L-Theanine on Improving Depression and Cognition in C57BL/J Male Mice Subjected for Chronic Stress Induced Neuroinflammation. Biomedical and Pharmacology Journal.
- Jongkees BJ et al. Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands--A review. J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Nov;70:50-7.