Requiring a high level of skill and deep immersion, photography has the potential to allow us access to a brain state that creates a tremendous sense of satisfaction and happiness: flow state. In this short video, Jamie Windsor explains this psychological phenomenon and how it can improve our image-making.
Having been involved in extreme sports for more than 15 years, I have a real appreciation of how rewarding it can be to enter a shifted brain state and undergo truly authentic, rewarding, and life-changing experiences. Adventures that have involved deep immersion relying on high levels of rehearsed practice give practitioners a greater sense of autonomy, self-confidence, and a renewed appreciation of life. Essentially, it can bring a greater sense of happiness, and it’s no coincidence that the likes of surfers and climbers often ignore material possessions in favor of minimalist lifestyles that are more focused on experiences rather than material wealth. Drawing some of this surfer mentality into your creative practices could be incredibly beneficial.
Flow state has parallels with sociologist Stephen Lyng’s concept of edgework. Writing more than 25 years ago, Lyng explained how engaging in high-consequence, high-skill activities had profound effects. He explains that such practices give “a sense of ineffability, authentic reality, altered perceptions of time/space, and feelings of mental control over environmental objects,” resulting from a level of engagement that allows you to forget time, where “objects and events assume new forms and qualities.” Through these experiences, you get a new understanding of yourself from having temporarily separated yourself from everyday concerns, such as how you appear to others. Typically, normal life constantly takes you out of the present moment, keeping you in a more distracted and detached state that is preoccupied with emails, food, deadlines, relationships, and so on — things that require looking at a screen, reflecting about the past, or stressing about the future. By contrast, edgework and flow state can be an escape, forcing you to be completely consumed with what is happening at that moment. “Being present” might sound like hippy garbage, but it can have a huge bearing on our happiness.
Thoughts in the comments, please!