People who are performing in a state of flow make difficult tasks look easy and natural. They are focused and attentive, but completely relaxed.
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According to Goleman, this parallels what is happening in the brain, where even the most challenging tasks are accomplished by a minimum expenditure of mental energy. In flow, the brain is in a cool, quiet state. Where you might expect more brain activity, there is actually less.
Your brain operates on four main frequencies or waves: beta (13-25 cycles per second, or CPS), alpha (8-12 CPS), theta (4-7 CPS), and delta (.5 to 3 CPS). If you’re wide awake and alert, for example talking or trying to solve problem at home or work, your brain is probably “transmitting” and “receiving” at 13 to 25 cycles per second—the beta level.
However, it is probably in the alpha state that heightened powers of concentration and creativity, as well as great mental and athletic performances, are achieved. Alpha brain waves produce a conscious state of relaxed wakefulness which is characteristic of flow. British learning innovator Colin Rose says, “This is the brain wave that characterizes relaxation and meditation, the state of mind during which you daydream, let your imagination run. It is a state of relaxed alertness that facilitates inspiration, fast assimilation of facts and heightened memory.”