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The State of Flow: Part l

The state of flow and how it can improve athletic performance.

Ah, the state of flow… such joy. Anyone who has ever experienced being “in the zone” while doing what they love or achieved a state of deep meditation knows exactly what I’m talking about. The magic of magnified vision, increased thinking speed and time warping into its own dimension, as if the universe has hit the pause button on everything else and handed you a private stage to explore your skills – skills suddenly exponentially amplified. 



The state of flow was first introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and you just skipped his name without even trying to pronounce it, didn’t you? It’s okay, no judgement on my part – just say “me high, cheeks send me high” and you’re good to go. While researching his first topic of interest, happiness, Csikszentmihalyi’s found that people hit their peak creativity, productivity, and happiness when they're in that sweet spot called "flow"1. After talking to athletes, musicians, and artists, Csikszentmihalyi coined the term "flow state" due to the regular description of best performances as times when work simply flows out effortlessly2,3.

But what is the state of flow exactly? Often defined as a state of effortless effort, flow state is a state in which an individual feels completely present in the situation, where nothing can serve as a distraction and time doesn’t seem to pass. This is thought to be due to something the brain experiences called transient hypofrontality4.

This fancy term means the frontal part of the brain, often linked to the measurement of time, takes a short break. In this state, each decision flows perfectly, seamlessly, from the last. As writer, researcher and one of the world’s leading experts on human performance, Steven Kotler likes to put it: “flow actually feels flowy”5. Decision-making abilities expand, focus becomes impenetrable and productivity skyrockets. And as if that wasn’t remarkable enough, anyone lucky enough to experience it feels unstoppable and simply amazing – mentally, spiritually, and physically. In fact, the state of flow is thought to be addictive due to its powerful release of dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, serotonin, and anandamide6 – does that sound like the perfect feel-good neurochemical mix or what? 

Many athletes who have experienced flow state while playing their sport swear by it for enhanced performance7, 8, 9. In Steven Kotler’s book, The Rise Of Superman, stories of athletes spanning decades highlight just how much entering the state of flow can help improve athletic performance.

It shouldn’t surprise us, given the characteristics of flow – here’s a recap: 

  • Complete focus on the task; 

  • Clear goals (rewards and instant feedback); 

  • Shift in time perception (speeding up or slowing down); 

  • Intrinsic satisfaction; 

  • Effortlessness and ease; 

  • Balance between challenge and skills; 

  • Merging of action and awareness (loss of self-conscious thoughts); 

  • Feeling of control over task. 


You can see how handy those could be mid-game, right? Now, imagine the kind of athlete one could become by mastering the art of flow alongside CONKA's brain-boosting supplements – it’s superpower on top of superpower. I’m sure by now you’re itching to ask “where and how can I get my brain on it?!” Well, hang tight for part 2 of this blog coming next, I’ll tell you all about it. In the meantime, grab CONKA's first-month offer10 and get ready for some mind-blowing results.


 

Leticia Hosang, BSc


Leticia is a sports science, sports psychology and neuroscience researcher, previously working with Brunel London University and exploring the effects of exercise on brain activity.


 

References


  1. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Beyond boredom and anxiety. Jossey-bass. https://scirp.org/reference/referencespapers?referenceid=673278

  2. Jackson, S. A., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Flow in sports. Human Kinetics.

  3. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Getzels, J. W. (1971). Discovery-oriented behavior and the originality of creative products: A study with artists. Journal of personality and social psychology, 19(1), 47. https://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=view_citation&hl=en&user=ycPRZqAAAAAJ&cstart=20&pagesize=80&citation_for_view=ycPRZqAAAAAJ:3htObqc8RwsC

  4. Dietrich, A. (2003). Functional neuroanatomy of altered states of consciousness: The transient hypofrontality hypothesis. Consciousness and cognition, 12(2), 231-256. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12763007/

  5. The Basics of Flow: Mastering The Fundamentals of Flow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGr1QLNoW38

  6. Kotler, S. (2014). The rise of superman: Decoding the science of ultimate human performance. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  7. The Great Wall of China Jump Danny Way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsqFjvZ4Mqw

  8. Kriss Kyle rides a BMX park in the sky: https://www.redbull.com/int-en/films/dont-look-down

  9. Flow 101: 5 of the World's Best Athletes Reveal the Secrets of the Zone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiechBcdYhg

  10. Conka Shop (first-month offer): https://www.conka.uk/shop

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