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How To Use Music To Get Into A Flow State



flow state
Getting in the zone isn’t just a matter of concentration. Instead, it’s a psychological concept that’s known professionally as the ‘flow state’. The term is gaining popularity as a way to define absorption in a positive light; in other words, being engrossed in an activity that makes the rest of the world disappear—even if only for a few seconds.

A flow state is most often associated with sports and creativity. The image of a Zen surfer catching a massive wave might pop into the head of some, while others might picture a masterful painter bent before a canvas. Regardless, flow isn’t just a way we describe getting in the zone.

It’s a psychological concept similar to hyperfocus, and it’s a way for people to tap into their own unique superpowers. Time seems to slow down, while an activity becomes more enjoyable under an energized focus. Unsurprisingly, music helps many enter this type of flow state, as the perfect tune is like a cognitive marker that signals relaxation, happiness, and safety.

But a flow state doesn’t only give access to creativity and athleticism. Music can also be used to help people tap into more logical states. For example, poker pros also rely on music to help them get into a flow of hours-long decision-making that’s based on probability, bluffing, and split-second valuation.

In fact, they’ve been doing it since the earliest clubs of the mid-20th century started hiring pianists and singers to elevate the room’s ambiance. Along the way, gamers realized music helped them concentrate for long stretches. Today, music is used to help people study, exercise, and, in general, get into the flow.

So, how, exactly, does this happen?

The Brain & Flow State

Humans have been attempting to explain the flow state for centuries. In fact, by the time psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the term in 1975, there were already a handful of colloquial phrases and aspects of flow state that many were familiar with.

Under Csíkszentmihályi’s definition, the flow state causes intense focus, a loss of self-reflective consciousness, full awareness of bodily action, a sense of agency and control, a ‘slowing down’ or ‘speeding up’ of time, and a sense of bliss. All the brain’s power is being expended on a certain task, which means minute details outside the activity fall away.

As such, it’s clear that getting into a flow state is highly beneficial, whether looking to perform well in a race, learn a new concept, or finish a creative project. As a highly personal experience, using music to get into a flow state will be equally particular.

Find the Right BPM & Hit ‘Do Not Disturb’

Using music to foster a flow state will vary depending on the activity. Each person responds to a different BPM; some prefer a higher BPM to tackle more physical activities, while those sitting down to learn or create might prefer a slower BPM. Think: Psytrance versus Big-Room House.

Still, any music can be used to help someone enter a flow state, as it helps get rid of external distractors. In some cases, music can also be treated as a ‘flow state trigger’ that signals to the mind and body that it’s time to buckle down and concentrate.

Don’t forget to hit ‘Do Not Disturb’—once the flow state is broken, it can be hard to build again. And keep in mind that many also struggle to turn off internal feedback, as well. Those who find the flow state difficult to access might benefit from a short meditation to clear and calm the mind beforehand. Others might find that hitting a flow state is only possible during a certain time period—the early morning for morning people or late night for night owls.

As mentioned above, the right BPM and music genre will vary greatly for every person. They’re also likely to change according to activity. Those looking to hit a flow state reliably can curate playlists designed for a specific purpose—and don’t hit shuffle.

Eventually, the brain will associate the first song of that playlist with a certain activity. It will prepare to automatically get in the zone as soon as the song plays.

Hi, my name is Erick Ycaza. I have a BA in Advertising & Graphic Design. This blog is to provide you with daily music news and share my personal style.

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