The Flow Factor: An Issue of Quality of Life and Brain

brain flow
Athletes in Law Special Issue

Imagine that you’re running a race and your attention is focused on the rhythm of your breath as it fuels the movement of your body. You can feel the power of your muscles. You can feel the force of the air in your lungs. You can feel the pavement but there seems to be no impact beneath your feet. You’re completely absorbed in the task and you are completely present in the moment. Time seems to standstill and even though you are tired you barely notice.

If you’ve ever been completely immersed in an activity, positive psychologists call this a state of flow. Psychologist to have first publish his findings, Mihaly Cskszentmihalyi, “compares it to what sports psychologists call reaching the ‘zone,’ a state of transcendent absorption that seems to push champion athletes beyond former limits. The primary difference between flow and the zone is motivation. The point of reaching the zone is to win. Achieving flow is usually an end in itself .”



Flow occurs at different times for different people. Flow is not associated with only sports. It is possible to reach a state of flow in your daily activities for work.

The great news is that there actually is a science to achieving flow. Most people think that flow occurs at a beta brain frequency but actually it starts at an alpha frequency where we know individual have a heightened power of concentration and is considered a more creative or meditative frequency. The brain functions with four main frequencies. Beta brain waves move at 13-25 htz. Or cycles per second (CPS), alpha (8-12 CPS) Theta (4-7 CPS) and delta (.5 to 3 CPS)., which is considered a meditative state.

Have you ever argued an appeal, noticing that you were completely focused on the questions as they came to you almost seamlessly? Have you ever made an argument and you looked at your watch wondering where had time gone? All you are aware of is the congratulations you are receiving for your winning argument. This is flow.

In preparing for a jury trial, panic is often the norm. But for a lucky few, flow allows for a performance that is effortless. “You might find flow in arguing tough motions … deposing adverse experts … sitting at a desk, pen in hand, marking an extremely tricky brief ,” in editing briefs, or giving a presentation to a board.

Flow is still needed when you go in-house. “It is part of what makes your work satisfying.”

Attorney Israel Garcia believes he reaches a state of flow when he is “able to reverse roles with his client, feeling the emotions, feelings and struggles of what the client lived through since the life changing event.”

With the advances in neuroscience, scientists are able to train the brain to achieve the state of flow through simple practices in neurofeedback, biofeedback, meditation and breath strategies that allow the brain to reach the magical state when desired. The methods use the brain’s natural processes to lock in flow and other optimizing brain patterns allowing for superior brain performance. The technologies allow you to take your brain to the gym. Just like we take our bodies to the gym, we can actually train the brain. The brain has muscle memory superior to the muscle memory of our bodies.


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British learning innovator Colin Rose says, flow is “the brain wave that characterizes relaxation and meditation, the state of mind during which you daydream, let your imagination run. It is a state of relaxed alertness that facilitates inspiration, fast assimilation of facts and heightened memory.” Dr. Sunita Punjabi Abd

Dr. Sunita Punjabi

Dr. Sunita Punjabi Abd has a master’s in psychology and is doing doctoral work through the Chicago School of Psychology. She is currently practicing as a neurotherapist doing neurofeedback to optimize brain performance. She is the founder and CEO of Brain Coach LLC. In San Antonio, Texas. She can be reached at 210-884-1200 or [email protected].

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