L’flow state is also called “optimal experience”. Indeed, when one enters this sort of trance, everything one does is done perfectly well and the problems find their solution in a few seconds. You didn’t know this expression? Read my explanations and you will see that you too have surely already entered this state of extreme concentration.
How to set the flow state?
The state of flow is a mental state reached by a person totally absorbed in his activity. Concentration is optimal but effortless. The person is engaged both physically and mentally in what they do.
In English, flow means flux. When you enter a state of flow, everything becomes fluid, easy, clear.
A flow is something that moves effortlessly, that flows by itself. With the flow state, that’s what it feels like. It differs from simple efficiency, by the joy one feels in carrying out a task. Some even speak of ecstasy!
Who invented the psychological concept of Flow?
This concept was born in 1975, thanks to a Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
The man, observing artists, realized that some were so absorbed in their work that they forgot everything else. And by everything else, I mean their bodily sensations, the passage of time, etc.
By studying this subject, this doctor has distinguished characteristic aspects that make it possible to recognize when one is in this state:
Faced with such an experience, other needs, even vital ones (hunger, thirst, fatigue) are neglected. They are sometimes no longer perceived but return at the end of the activity. It may have happened to you to work on a subject that fascinates you and then:
Flow State Example
L’state of flow applies to sport as well as to work or even during an artistic activity. Here are some examples during which you can reach this psychological state.
The state of flow at work
Let’s imagine that you have to tackle a big file, like organizing a schedule including ten people. Everyone has their own obligations in terms of schedules and you have to make it all coincide.
If you like this type of challenge, you plunge happily into this task.
You forget everything around you while the schedules almost create themselves before your eyes. Things are fluid and when blockages arise, you immediately find a solution.
Once your task is completed, you are satisfied with the work done and, deep down, you loved it.
You were in good flow.
The state of flow during sport
The expression that comes closest toflow state in sport, is the feeling of ease. During a sports session, such as running, there are days when it’s difficult. You don’t know why but that’s how it is.
And then, sometimes, everything is perfect:
You are successful in your sport and you take great pleasure in it.
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The best thing is that for reach this mental state, you don’t need to be very experienced. Beginners can also reach a state of flow after a few runs.
Of course, this doesn’t happen every time so don’t be disappointed if on your next outing you feel like you’re at your wit’s end after 10 minutes of racing.
Team sports practitioners are also familiar with this state of extreme concentration, but at a higher level. Sometimes, during a match, the group acts in unison. The comprehension is instantaneous and the precise gestures, without error.
The feeling of harmony and invincibility is such that the team is transcended and victory is inevitable.
How is the flow in our brain?
When we enter a state of flow, brain waves slow down which improves concentration. The area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex tends to shut down.
It is she who harbors self-awareness and helps us make informed decisions. Thus, other areas of the brain can activate and new connections are made. We are therefore more focused on the task to perform and less parasitized by our feelings and our personal thoughts.
Moreover, when the brain enters a state of flow, it also releases serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, the famous hormones of well-being.
The characteristic stages of flow
The flow state can be divided into 4 steps.
- The fight : you work on your task, making the effort not to let go for several minutes;
- The tilt : your prefrontal cortex deactivates while other brain areas come into action;
- trance : you have entered the flow state;
- The return : you come back to yourself and become aware of the world around you, as well as your feelings.
The flow state typically lasts several minutes. But in some individuals, it can go up to several hours.
The benefits of flow
Spending a moment in a state of flow obviously makes it possible to obtain a remarkable efficiency in the activity performed. Whether during work or during a sports session, we obtain results far superior to those usually recorded.
Then comes wellness. As we have seen, the brain, during this remarkable psychological state, produces large quantities of hormones aimed at feeling calm and serenity. In other words, a general well-being that lasts for several hours.
The flow also allows you to move forward in surpassing yourself. If you are aiming for a sporting goal and you start an intense training session, there is a good chance that the state of flow will take hold of you and help you to reach, even to exceed this target.
How to enter this psychological state of concentration?
Here are my tips for successfully entering a state of flow. Be careful, keep in mind that this state is only compatible with activities that interest you.
The steps to get into the flow
Start by choosing a task or sport that you really enjoy. You can choose a manual, sporting or artistic activity, the state of flow works for everything that requires concentration.
Step 1: choose a goal
As in any activity, having a goal in sport is important. It allows us to know why we give ourselves and why we make all these efforts.
Step 2: Concentrate
It is impossible to discover the state of flow if you check your emails every 5 minutes or if you are constantly called. To concentrate as much as possible, make yourself unavailable. Put your phone on airplane mode and tell those around you to pretend you’re away. Or better yet, go away!
Step 3: trust yourself
Whichever activity you choose, do you trust. You have certainly acquired skills in the past. Now is the time to use it. The state of flow allows the brain to draw on all its knowledge and skills to make the most of it.
Step 4: Get started
There is no magic recipe here. If all the elements are there, all that remains is to start and stay focused while waiting for the flow to appear.
What practice or sport to enter the state of flow?
We have seen it, theflow state is not restricted to certain sports. It is possible to reach this mental state with an individual or collective sport, a combat sport or a precision sport. The important thing is to give your all in an activity that occupies the whole body and mind.
The mind in sport is the key to many successes.
A marathon runner can reach the state of flow as much as a basketball player or a karateka.
It is also important to note that depending on the practice and each individual, the sensations felt may be different, particularly in terms of well-being, duration and intensity of the state.