Flow + the Brain
If you’ve gotten this far, you already know that one of our favorite things to discuss here at Reframe is the brain. It’s one of the most miraculous structures in our bodies, and its close connection with the science of substance use gives us so much data and knowledge to work with. We truly believe that the more you understand about the way the brain works, the more you take back your power and begin building the incredible alcohol-free life you are meant for.
So it only makes sense that we really love digging into the neuroscience of flow state—what exactly is at work in our noggins when we “get in the zone.”
While there’s a lot we still don’t know (about the neuroscience of flow and the brain, in general), we’ve got a couple working theories. More and more research is being conducted to make sense of this phenomenon, but two primary theories involve our friends the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) and dopamine.
You’ll remember the Prefrontal Cortex from our discussion about how alcohol impacts the brain. The PFC is the part of our brains responsible for our higher functioning, specifically things like our impulse control, logical reasoning, inhibition, and future planning. One of the theories of flow state is that this center is temporarily bypassed when we enter flow, so that we think less and do more. Our inner critic goes away, we create for the sake of creation instead of productivity, and so on.
If you’re thinking “but wait a minute, isn’t that what alcohol does to the PFC too?” you would be correct! Gold star for you! But it’s important to make a distinction between the way flow interrupts the PFC and the way alcohol does—booze turns it off completely, reverting to the lower, mammalian brain structures that seek instant gratification and pleasure, while it’s theorized that flow state temporarily bypasses the PFC in favor of the more creative, communicative brain structures.