A "rich environment" is one of the 3 external triggers to a flow state.
A rich environment consists of novelty, uncertainty, and complexity. It's this type of environment that fosters flow due to the fact it releases dopamine and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters are not only associated with pleasure but also with focus and learning.
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As a principle, flow follows focus and flow heightens awareness and attention to the extreme. Yet, it takes a certain degree of focus and concentration to generate a flow state. The elements of a rich environment grab our attention because of the presence of uncertainty and risk. Nothing orients our attention like the risk of danger. You don’t have to try too hard to concentrate when there is a risk to survival.
Where to Find The Richest Environment for Flow
Due to elevated levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, the brain attains an increased ability for pattern recognition. This expedites learning. Flow also enhances creativity. When the parts of the brain that are associated with self-consciousness and self-doubt are deactivated, our creativity soars.
There is no more rich environment that fosters flow than in nature. Nature has all three characteristics of a rich environment to a high degree.
Think of times you experienced a sense of awe and wonder while in nature. You were most likely in some level of a flow state and may not even have realized it. Perhaps, you felt deeply embodied and present or lost track of time.
A rich environment causes the release of dopamine and norepinephrine which increases focus and leads to a flow state.
The majority of us cannot access nature as much as we would like. However, the brain will still release this dopamine/norepinephrine combination with even small degrees of novelty and complexity. Look for ways to introduce these elements into your day-to-day life, such as varying your route to work or rearranging the order you do your daily schedule or exercise regimen.
How to Incorporate a Rich Environment at Work
In a group setting, vary the team members who lead the meeting or focus on developing clear, specific goals to work on, that challenge each member’s current skill levels. This is a great way to incorporate the aspects of a rich environment into your work environment.
This will also result in more intrinsically rewarding experiences for each person in the group. And again, it will exponentially cut down the time it takes to learn new skills and increase creativity.
Great minds throughout history have utilized this strategy to experience some of their most significant contributions to science, music, and athletics.
Remember, when it comes to incorporating aspects of a rich environment, small changes can reap big dividends. Also, even though you may not be able to get as deeply into nature as you desire, take a walk in a park on a break or at least get outside for a brief period of time. In addition to rich environment being a flow trigger, the second stage of flow is release.
Temporarily walking away from a difficult problem or creative block can access the default mode network in your brain and allow creative breakthroughs to occur. Great minds throughout history have utilized this strategy to experience some of their most significant contributions to science, music, and athletics.
My personal favorite way to incorporate a rich environment into my life is nature. I attempt to catch every sunrise and sunset I can. This only requires about ten minutes a day. Furthermore, I turn off my music and engage in a mindful walk along the lake by my home following my morning run or workout. Awe and wonder are great flow inducers.
Start today to begin to introduce components of a rich environment that fosters flow into your daily routine and track the impact this has on your performance. In addition to helping you develop peak performance, you will experience more pleasure.
Life is not just about achievement but joy, peace, and happiness as well. Always work on increasing the amount of presence in your life to obtain these higher-level goals.
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