The Sports Psychology Monthly Minute is a monthly article on some of the latest in sports.
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It might seem like magic to get so immersed in a physical activity (like surfing) that you forget about everyday worries and your never-ending to-do list, but the reality is that you’re experiencing a very real psychological state: flow. And it’s the secret to creating momentum that can lead to real progress with sports skills and athletic performance.
Flow is a state of being in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. That’s the opposite of how most of us function the majority of the time.
Imagine your mind as a laptop or phone. Sometimes, it has a bunch of tabs or apps open at once, which can slow down the device. But in flow, the device is devoting much more of its capacity to running a single, high-powered app, so it can work at its prime.
With a little effort, you can make a state of flow a deliberate — and frequent — experience. And it can keep the progress flowing too.
The Positive Feelings of Flow
Higher self-esteem and confidence are associated with frequent flow experiences. This is due to the fact that flow-inducing activities are frequently rewarding, and engaging in them makes you better at them. People who reach this stage enhance their abilities and are likely to experience an increase in confidence as a result.
How to Find Flow
You’ve probably “wandered” into a flow state numerous times without intending to or even aware you were doing it. (If you’ve ever solved a challenge in a short amount of time, congratulations; you flow hard, pal.)
Frequently, this occurs on its own. However, follow these instructions to consciously reach a flow state.
Discover a task that enhances flow.
When you’re doing something you really love that’s a bit challenging but not so challenging that you wind up feeling frustrated, which will quickly knock you out of the zone, that’s when flow vibes really start to develop. To motivate you to continue, the activity must provide you with some sort of instant, transparent feedback. Usually, that merely means that you’re feeling confident in what you’re doing.
For flow, sports can be very fantastic. In particular, those that need your full focus, like rock climbing, yoga, surfing, or skiing, since you’re in the moment, not thinking about the past or the future. Peak after peak and wave after wave, such concentration can generate momentum.
Block off time.
Making specific preparations to engage in your flow-friendly activity increases the likelihood that you will really enter the zone. Begin modestly. You can set a reminder on your phone to engage in the activity for a specified period of time each day, even if it’s just five minutes. There is no right or wrong time to do it, but she points out that maintaining a constant daily schedule can help you be more consistent so flow occurs more readily. Additionally, consistency may be even more important to your progress than your level of effort.
Don’t be distracted.
The capacity to focus is necessary for flow, so find a peaceful area, put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode or turn it off, and gather your supplies. There is more to this stage than just assisting with concentration. According to Paterson, setting up your instruments and, to some extent, making a ritual out of it, can assist prepare your brain to enter a state of flow. Perhaps you play the same song while putting on your gym clothes or arrange your paints and brushes on the same surface before starting to work with your canvas.
Clear your head.
If eliminating outward distractions isn’t enough to help you focus, consider a transitional activity to calm your mental chatter. A quick meditation walk when you concentrate on the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations around you is a fantastic place to start. She claims that doing so helps you focus on the present moment by setting an objective before you begin the activity and by enhancing your awareness of your immediate surroundings.
Don’t push it.
Although you can often create the conditions for flow, you can’t always make it happen. Consider flow instead as a friend you casually invited to the party rather than a special guest; it is welcomed and desired but not necessary. If you worry excessively, your brain’s focus will be diverted from flowing.
What I mean is? Simply get moving by going on a run, passing the ball, or getting your notebook out. Many times, the rest will take care of itself. When you master flow, there is no stopping you.