Article 090: The healing effects of flow


When Steven Kotler was 30, he was diagnosed with Lyme disease. His symptoms were so excruciating he spent 90% of his day in bed. They eventually became so unbearable that he contemplated suicide. One day, a friend arrived at his house and insisted on taking him surfing. Kotler’s friends had to help him both to physically leave the house and to get into the water, but once in the waves, something unusual happened. His muscle memory returned and he found himself able to surf better than before. Kotler would return to the water several times only to experience the same transformation. Congruent to these trips, Kotler’s health drastically improved. Refusing to believe that surfing was responsible for his improvement, Kotler decided to look into the phenomenon. He found that it wasn’t the activity itself, but the mental state that had made the difference. He was experiencing flow.

After researching flow at the Flow Genome Institute, Kotler found that the state does not just have a positive effect on the mind, but on the body too. He identified five chemicals that are released during flow – norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, serotonin and endorphins. These enhance the body’s performance which translates to the optimisation of bodily functions, and a boost to physical health. This combination also resets the nervous system and boosts immunity. As Lyme disease damages these systems, Kotler found that getting into the zone had a transformative effect on his healing.

The flow state offered Kotler a release from the draining symptoms of his illness as he was able to perform physical feats that would otherwise be considered impossible. That’s the thing about flow. It renders the impossible possible.

Kotler’s study shows how the pursuit of passion is not just mentally rewarding but also a physically enriching venture. When rebel entrepreneurs concentrate on their passion, the process elicits a unique physical reaction that has the potential to heal the body, ensuring that it is in the best possible shape to tackle whatever challenges may come.




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