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“Avoid noisy environments and opportunity for interruptions,” advises Giovanni Moneta, an academic psychologist at London Metropolitan University and the author of Positive Psychology: A Critical Introduction.
The activity makes a difference, too. “We need to engage in activities that are meaningful to us, that we find challenging and for which we feel that we have the skills required to come out as winners.”
We are more likely to access the flow state when engaged in tasks we’ve already practiced. Think of the expert figure skater on the rink or the confident singer at the microphone. The level of difficulty should also be just right – not so easy that you find yourself bored, but not so hard that you get stressed.
When people are mindful, their blood pressure comes down. All the physiological signs indicate greater wellbeing – Ellen Langer
Of course, that isn’t something we can always control. American author Steven Kotler, who wrote a book about peak human performance, has admitted that, as much as we’ve learned about its biological correlates and mental benefits, “flow is still a happy accident when it happens. All we can do is make you more accident-prone.”
And, as Moneta warns, flow can be exhausting. The work involved in completing a big project involves a lot more than the ecstatic, if preternaturally productive, periods of flow. To get to the finish line of a task, it’s just as important to slog through the boring parts and push through the uncomfortably difficult ones.