Flow state is when you are utterly absorbed in your task, the outside world is forgotten and you can achieve a great deal. It’s the end of writers block, a time to pour out your creativity or finish that piece of work. A sense of space and time can disappear, perhaps you are so into your task you forget to eat. When you are in this state you are highly focused and concentrated with great insight and clarity. It feels fantastic, you are on top of your game and have an outlet for all that wonderful creative energy.
Flow state was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975, although many religions and philosophies describe the same thing, such as Dhyana in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Csikszentmihalyi states that in order to get into this zone you must have a sense of personal agency or control over the activity and begin with a clear set of goals. The task must have immediate feedback, and you must have confidence in your ability. Your skills need to be tested to reduce boredom, but the task can’t be so hard it induces anxiety.
Athletes often call this being ‘in the zone’ and sports psychologists use various techniques such as NLP, visualisation and hypnosis to get their clients to fall naturally into the flow state. Top tennis players can’t be thinking about what they are having for dinner whilst playing at Wimbledon. They must be highly focused.
Ayrton Senna describes his mental state during the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix.
“That day I suddenly realised that I was no longer driving it conscious, and I was in a different dimension for me. The circuit for me was a tunnel, which I was just going, going going…and I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding.”
Artists and musicians similarly describe the same feelings, but we all achieve it at some point in our life. Perhaps when you go running you get into a zone, or when writing an essay, or working a busy shift. It can lead to better performance, improve your skills and is very pleasurable.
In his book Finding Flow, Csíkszentmihályi explains that individuals should seek out activities that meet some of the factors of flow, like playing chess, playing a logic game or puzzle like Sudoku, participating in sports, engaging in a meaningful project at work or at school, drawing, or writing. That’s because it’s pleasurable and we are at our happiest.
Sometimes it’s hard to get into flow. Our mind starts to wander and it doesn’t settle. It can be really frustrating when we are trying to work, and our thoughts go to what we need to buy at the supermarket or a conversation you had with your friend the day before. Your daughter needs new shoes and you’ve forgotten to book your car in for a service. Boredom, apathy and anxiety are the enemy of flow state.
When you need to get something done and you’re struggling to get down to it, have a think about the conditions you are creating to get into that zone. Can you really hone in on that task and define your goal? Do you believe you can achieve it, have you got the confidence and self belief?
Some people have a set of rituals they use to let their bodies know it’s time to get into flow, for example they listen to the same piece of music before they go into a the arena or they always sit at the same spot when they want to draw. These become associations or anchors to the right mind set.
It appears that there is crossover with trance, some even call flow state hypnotic, and hypnotherapy can certainly help to get you in the right mindset for flow state by using various techniques such as visualisation and anchoring. Hypnosis is also great at eliminating any negative self talk, boosting confidence and getting rid of those mental blocks.
Please get in touch via my contact page if you’d like to experience hypnosis, just like flow state, it feels fantastic and can help you achieve more flow in your life.