A Wow Explanation of What Happens When You Experience a Wow Moment
Steven Kotler explains what happens in your brain at aha moments.
Flow. It’s a brain state that fascinates scientists because it appears to be the well from which creativity flows. It was first identified by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi his 1988 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Psychology Today describes it this way:
Action and awareness merge. Our sense of self and our sense of self consciousness completely disappear. Time dilates—meaning it slows down (like the freeze frame of a car crash) or speeds up (and five hours pass by in five minutes). And throughout, all aspects of performance are incredibly heightened—and that includes creative performance.
When you’re on the edge of dreaming and sleep, you’re in "theta," where oscillations have slowed down to 3 to 8 Hz.
But oddly, it’s in-between these two dreamy states where flow—the most engaged state there is—happens. Could it be that when the two states are balanced just so, a third state emerges like a difference tone in music?
That’s not the only weird thing, either. When you have a flash of inspiration or clarity—an aha moment—your brain briefly produces high-intensity "gamma" brainwaves oscillating 38 to 42 times per second, the fastest that brainwaves can go.
You can’t stay in a gamma state; it’s just a quick spike. But how surprising is it that the only way to get to the ultra-clarity of high-frequency gamma is from the dreamy edge of low-frequency theta?
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
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