By Dr. East Phillips, DAOM, LAc
Cold showers, intermittent fasting, running, nootropics, music, surfing, dancing to EDM, high-intensity sports, creative outlets such as painting or starting new companies, kittens, funny movies, having fun with my kids, weekend getaways with my husband, laughing with family and friends, girls’ weekends and Marie Kondo-like organizing the heck out of my office and home.
What? You don’t consider cold showers to be a turn-on?
Perhaps I should clarify what I meant by that. I was referring to things that turn on my flow state. Now that you understand what I meant with the title of this article, what are your turn-ons? In other words, what puts you into a flow state? Maybe you’re asking yourself something along the lines of “why would even want to pursue this?”
Perhaps it is because of what might be possible:
- Feeling that you are at your best physically, mentally, and spiritually
- Feeling a sense of purpose in life
- Having a genuine passion for everything you do
- Loving, supportive, and deeply connected relationships
- Prosperity and financial abundance
- Acceptance of what is and stronger love of self
- Experiencing a deeper connection to source, spirit, God, and your higher self
- Clarity regarding what you want and where you are going in life
- Feeling like you make a positive impact on the world
If you want any or all of the above, tapping into your flow state will get you there.
In this article, I’d like to share some strategies for getting you into the flow state (also known as “the zone”) and keeping you there. Some of these may be obvious, or activities in which you already engage, but other might be entirely new for you and could potentially be your new “turn-on”.
Where to start if you are unsure. The turn-ons for flow state are similar to the sexual context of turn-on in that they are different for everyone. Some people enter a flow state while engaging in group activities, while other people enter “the zone” by sitting in silence. Where do you fall within this range? If you aren’t sure, the folks at the Flow Genome Project may be able to help you. This company, founded by a group of peak performers, is dedicated to assisting people in reaching their peak potential. They have created a simple 10-question survey to determine how you enter the flow state and offer different training and educational programs. It might be worth checking out as a place to start: www.flowgenomeproject.com.
Variety. Remember the first time you had coffee, espresso, tea, or something caffeinated? What a buzz, huh? Then, over time, you became immune to the effects of caffeine and needed more of it to achieve the buzz.
Flow state inducing activities are similar in that we need to mix them up in order to sustain our peak performance. Otherwise, we can build up immunities to the same routines and activities. As with caffeine, we can find that over time we will either need to add more intensity to our activity or an entirely new actively altogether. Therefore, this strategy is two-fold: (1) Make sure to mix it up and engage in a variety of activities; and (2) try new things.
Every mentor I’ve had throughout my life has encouraged me to try something new at least once per year and make sure that that something new scares the crap out of me. That’s because they understand that by doing so, I have an opportunity to expand myself through a new flow state activity.
Are you engaging in the same flow state activities, over and over? Is it time to try something new? Some activities and strategies that could put you into a flow state:
There are so many breathing techniques and methods out there. Here are a few that I’ve come across and tried for myself:
- Wim Hof Method
- Box Breathing
- Holotropic Breathwork
- Shamanic Breathwork
- Pineal Gland Activation by Joe Dispenza
- Transformational Breathwork
You can experiment with most of these methods by searching for them on YouTube, where the creators offer guided samples of their techniques. A few, like rebirthing and shamanic breathwork, require a coach. I’ve tried all of the above methods and found them helpful during different periods of my life.
The many benefits of breathwork are varied and far-reaching. They include reduced blood pressure, stress management, strengthening of intestinal and abdominal muscles, pain reduction, improved sleep, improved circulation, and assistance with the body’s detoxification process.
Lately, my favorite is the Wim Hof Method. I was especially intrigued by his technique when I read about a study conducted in 2014 in which twelve participants injected with botulism experienced zero adverse reactions after performing the Wim Hof breathing method, meditation, and exposure to cold (2014, Kox et al.) If breathwork can fight off botulism in your body, imagine what other beneficial physiological effects it can have.
The key with breathwork is to find which one works best for you at this time in your life and make sure to include it in your self-care routine.
Cold Showers and Ice Baths:
Trust me. I am a baby when it comes to cold. I downright can’t stand it. However, after reading the many benefits of cold showers, and the Wim Hof research results, I tried it for myself. I have to say that I honestly have a surge of energy for at least 4 hours after ending my hot shower with a cold shower. Ben Greenfield has a great YouTube video where he provides instructions on how to take a cold shower. It’s one of his most-watched videos.
With the following benefits of cold showers/ice baths, perhaps it’s worth a try: Increased circulation, detoxification, improved exercise recovery, improved sex drive, improved stress response, reduced muscle inflammation, boosted happiness levels – sign me up!
This morning I had a big ole cup of nootropics. Yup, coffee. Coffee is considered a nootropic because it can enhance brain function. However, coffee is just the tip of a huge and growing iceberg in the field of nootropics. A variety of nootropics, both synthetic and plant-based, are readily available.
A word of caution: less is more. Have you ever had too much caffeine? Remember how horrible you felt? Jitters, anxiety, nausea. These are all possible side effects of too much of a good thing, with that good thing being nootropics. Therefore, start small and work your way up to more advanced supplements.
Examples of some commonly used nootropics include Bacopa Monnieri, Nicotine, Cat’s Claw, Oat Straw, Huperzia Serrata, fish oils, B vitamins, Ashwagandha, Ginko Biloba, Macuna, Bacopa Monnieri, Tyrosine, Theanine, Leucine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Resveratrol/Pterostilbene, Synthetic Ketones, Rhodiola Rosea, Lion’s Mane Mushroom, and Cacao. Thought leaders in the field include Aubrey Marcus, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferris, Dr. Molly Maloof, and Dave Asprey.
If you want to experiment with nootropics, I recommend you try a blend – one that has a combination of nootropic substances to enhance mental function. There are several companies who have already done the research to determine which nootropics are synergistic and blend well together. My favorites as of late include MindCare by Himalaya, Alpha Brain by Onnit, and Qualia by Neurohacker.
Exercise & Movement. Everyone is drawn to different physical activities, so it’s up to you to determine which one(s) brings you a genuine sense of joy, rather than a feeling of “ugh, I have to go exercise.”
Ideas from which to draw when choosing a movement or physical exercise modality: aerobics, circuit training, indoor cycling, HIIT workouts, stretching, yoga, taiji, qigong, martial arts, racquet sports like tennis, racquetball, and pickleball, swimming, surfing, snow skiing, snowboarding, rebounding (trampoline), running, hiking, mountain biking, dancing, weight-lifting, horseback riding, skating, roller blading, and walking.
Acupuncture/acupressure and reiki. These modalities can help to release blocked energy and blood flow in the body and therefore initiate flow states. I recently listened to a podcast in which Zach Bush, MD, shared with the listeners that, the first time he received acupuncture, he had an incredible experience of timelessness and connectedness—common sensations when in a flow state.
Creative expression. Remember when you were a kid, and you would draw, sculpt play dough, make crafts, create forts, play make-believe and time wasn’t even part of your awareness?
As a child, you were most likely fully engaged at the moment and entirely present for the experience. You were in a flow state.
What type of creative activities do that for you now? Here are some ideas in case your inner child has forgotten: painting, singing, song-writing, playing an instrument, pottery and ceramics, woodworking, crafting, sewing, knitting, starting a business venture (lemonade stands), baking, cooking, photography, gardening, jewelry making, and DIY projects.
Meditation. It goes without saying that meditation is powerful medicine and can get you into the flow state. Just as with many of the activities described above, it’s best to try various styles and methods and find the one that works for you at this time in your life. Before I had children, I could easily meditate for 45 minutes to an hour. I even did a 10-day vipassana! These days, I’m lucky to squeeze in a 15-minute power meditation into my day.
Over the years, I’ve tried all types of meditation, including guided meditation, walking meditation, gazing meditation, breathing meditation, mindfulness meditation, and affirmation/mantra-based meditation. Again, the key here is to find a technique that works for you and to schedule it into your life.
Intermittent Fasting. When we eat, much of our blood and body’s energy goes to our gut for digestion. When our body isn’t digesting food, blood and energy are available for other bodily functions and processes (like going up into your brain).
When I’m explaining the benefits of intermittent fasting to people, sometimes referred to as time-restricted feeding, I use the analogy of a rainy day. Have you ever been home on a rainy day, unable to go outside and play and think to yourself, “Hmm, since I can’t go outside, what can I do inside?” You might look around, recognize that you’ve already binge-watched everything decent on Netflix, and decide to clean out that junk closet that you’ve ignored for years.
So, you pull out all the broken pens, throw away the old wrappers thrown in there by mistake, the twisted, unusable paperclips, the Halloween candy from three years ago, and organize the closet. Ahhh! Feels good, doesn’t it?
Your body is the same way. When it doesn’t have food to digest, it will go to work on the “junk closets” of your body – repairing old tissue injuries, detoxification, cellular repair, and even increasing the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in your system, which thereby increases the production of stem cells. From my fasting experience, whether it is intermittent, 1-day fast or even a 3-day juice fast, it is amazing how clear-headed and highly functional I feel.
A word of caution: fasting is not for everyone. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, pregnancy, and cancer, may not be candidates for this eating strategy. Also, most of the clinical trials proving efficacy were performed on rats or men. Therefore, women need to be mindful that this technique might not be appropriate, given the different hormones at play in womens’ bodies.
If you do not have an underlying medical condition, simply trying intermittent fasting is the best way to discover if it will help put you into a flow state. If this technique is one that will work for you, I suspect that you will experience the clear-headedness and clarity that I’m describing here. Many people have reported that intermittent fasting enhances a flow state that may have been created by other activities. That leads us to our next strategy: stacking.
The term stacking here refers to engaging in multiple flow state activities simultaneously or within the same day. By doing so, you can enhance the effects and benefits exponentially.
Some examples of stacking include:
- Working out first thing in the morning before eating and thereby stacking intermittent fasting with exercise
- Micro-dosing and exercising together
- Breathwork and ice baths
- Music and movement
- Intense exercise followed by acupuncture treatment
- Nootropics and exercise
- HIIT workout while fasting, cold shower, and meditation (trifecta)
- Music and creative projects
- Trying something new while engaging in a familiar flow state activity
Sitting down to write this article, I realized this could easily be a book due to the amount of information surrounding this topic. I hope that what I’ve offered here somehow assists you in getting into, and sustaining, a flow state. I’ve dropped several breadcrumbs in this article for future exploration.
My genuine desire is for everyone to experience their highest potential, and in my experience, the flow state is a direct path.
With a commitment to helping others actualize their greatest potential and well-being, Dr. East Haradin has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999 and professor of Chinese Medicine at the Pacific College of Health Sciences since 2004. Specializing in MIE: Motivation Inspiration and Encouragement, Dr. East helps practitioners of alternative medicine align with their three P’s: Purpose, Passion and Prosperity. In 2019 she published the book More Than a Treatment which held the Amazon bestseller’s list in Practice Management for several weeks. She currently resides in Del Mar, CA with her husband and two kids and continues to help patients, students, other practitioners and the general public with her lectures, workshops, books, events, coaching programs, and wellness related products.