What is flow? Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a famous book on flow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience in which he talks about the flow being when you experience deep enjoyment, creativity and total involvement in life. At MCW Fitness, we talk a lot about optimal human performance, where we define it as, "when you’re eating, thinking and moving optimally." Flow and performance are closely related. One can get into the flow state during a number of activities. Whether writing, playing a musical instrument, dancing, playing sports or evening playing video games. It’s that sense of being total consumed and involve in what your doing.
How does one get to into the flow state? For me, I get there when I am rock climbing and that is a big reason why I love the sport so much. When I go climbing outside, I am able to get away from city. From the noise of my daily life. My phone doesn’t work most of the time. When I get the wall my focus is intense. Anything else going on that day, that week, that month, doesn’t matter. It all fades away. The only thing going through my head is how do I get to that next hold. If I can’t just reach it, do I need to step up, switch my feet, switch my hands, contort my body in some weird way?
Getting to that flow state is addictive. I love it. I don’t consciously think about it because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to get there. Getting into flow doesn’t require adrenaline or doing something dangerous, it’s just about being able to focus on something and letting your mind and or your body take over. The creativity comes out and as a climber, being creative on the wall allows you to do things and get to holds that you didn’t think were possible. Here are three tips for getting into a flow state:
1 - Cut out distractions
This is a big one, if you setting down at your computer to write a paper or blog post and your email is consistently come up or phone is getting messages and notifications. It’s really difficult to get into that zone. If you hear or see your phone go off, it pulls you out of it and then you have to start back over again. Try putting your phone on airplane mode and just give yourself 30 minutes of distraction free writing.
2 - Focus on your breathing
Being able to calm down your heart rate is huge when playing sports. When you see professional athletes, anytime there is a big moment or play that is about to happen, what do they do? They take a deep breath to calm themselves down before executing. A good way to start the habit of breathing is to take a few moments to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Getting oxygen into your lungs and through your blood stream will help relax your muscles and slow down the rate of blood flowing to them. Start by spending just 1 minute a day just breathing and clearing your mind. It’s harder then you think to not get distracted.
3 - Be Present
Don’t over think it. If you are too caught up in how you’re doing what you’re doing then you won’t be able to just let yourself do it. Often when we are trying too hard to do something perfectly we end up make mistakes. When my clients get this way, I tell them to stop thing about it and often that is all they need to clean up the form they have done before. The next time you are stressing about every little detail just tell yourself to stop over thinking about it and like Nike says, “Just do it!"