The Art of Intentional Play: Why Getting into Flow and Optimized Learning Go Hand-in-Hand

Guest Post by Zachariah Fisher-Founder, Curriculum Development, Visionary, and Teacher at Peace Guardians.

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold." - Joseph Chilton Pearce.

Throughout time, man has attempted to transcend the limiting confines of the ordinary and enter into the realm of the sublime. These heightened states of awareness are often called "flow states" and promote a flood of feel-good chemicals firing off in the brain. Dopamine, Oxycontin, Endorphins, and Serotonin measure off the charts when brain scans are performed on participants that are tracking in high flow, what athletes call “the zone,” or musicians often call “the pocket.” Flow States are a fascinating treasure trove of wisdom that helps to unlock some of the mysteries of peak experiences and lend a hand in the discovery of the importance of, as renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell states, “following our bliss.” In this article, we will explore the benefits of these states and the clear link between Play and Flow.

In positive psychology, flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In short, author Steven Kotler says, “flow states are when we feel our best and perform our best.” Beyond the intrinsic value of pure enjoyment, research has shown that when harnessed and cultivated, these states can and often do lead to altered traits. In his seminal work; Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates that flow is not just a key factor of happiness, but rather the key factor to happiness. His research revealed that worldly success and acclaim in the form of money, prestige and power did not show any noticeable increase in levels of happiness. However, when observing large samples of people that regularly incorporated flow states into their daily routines, flow proved to be the strongest factor of a more joyful life.