Scientists Think They Finally Cracked the Flow State

This elusive yet powerful mental state has eluded scientists for decades, but they’ve recently made a breakthrough

Katrina Paulson
6 min readApr 7, 2024
Photo by Adam Hoffman on Unsplash

If you’ve ever found yourself totally lost in an activity, especially a creative one, you’ve likely experienced what psychologists call the “flow state.” I’ve experienced it countless times during various mental and physical activities, including while writing these articles.

But what causes the flow state, and what happens in the brain when it’s engaged? Is it simply the result of being hyperfocused? Or does something else create the mindset? Such questions have been disputed yet unanswered for decades, but a new study claims to have answers that finally settle the long-held debate.

A Little History

In 1990, a pioneering psychological scientist at the University of Chicago named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi earned the nickname “father of flow” after publishing an outline of his theory in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

His inspiration stemmed from his childhood while growing up in Europe during World War II. The pain and suffering he witnessed during that time motivated him to seek out what makes life worth living, a curiosity he pursued for the…



Katrina Paulson

I wonder about humanity, questions with no answers, and new discoveries. Then I write about them here and on substack!