Being in the zone (also known as flow) is a mental state where one’s awareness is focused on their present experience and emotions rather than thoughts or feelings about past experiences. A person may enter into a state of being in the zone when they are meditating, doing yoga poses, playing music at high volume, eating chocolate ice cream while watching TV, listening to jazz music or any other activity that involves intense concentration and relaxation.
The term “flow” was coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Crown Publishers, New York, 1996). According to him, flow occurs when the following conditions are met:
A sense of complete physical and emotional well-being; A feeling of inner calmness and serenity; An absence of anxiety or fear; A desire to continue the activity without further interruption.
Flow states have been observed in many different activities such as meditation, exercise, sports, writing, painting and even art appreciation. People often report that they feel like they are floating through time and space during these states.
There are several theories about why people might enter into flow states. One theory suggests that it is due to the release of endorphins which produce a euphoric sensation in the brain.
Other theories include the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, which can cause a similar euphoric effect.
When a person is in a state of flow, their mind enters a focused state where it concentrates only on the task at hand. The rest of the world fades into the background as insignificant.
In this state, it is easier to work for extended periods without becoming tired or distracted. Most people feel refreshed and restored after they have completed their work.
How to Achieve a Flow State
Achieving a flow state is a lot like achieving nirvana, except it’s more achievable. People experience flow when they are engaged in an activity that fits their personality and energy level.
If this activity is also somewhat challenging, you have a recipe for a flow state.
Before we begin, let’s get some terminology straight. The terms “flow” and “being in the zone” are often used interchangeably, but they are not quite the same thing.
While flow is a state of mind, being in the zone refers to your ability to perform complex tasks with no mistakes.
There are two basic steps to achieving a flow state:
Find an activity that you really enjoy. This could be playing an instrument, writing code, cooking or anything else.
Your activity should focus your energy in a way that makes you feel good. It should be something you can do for long periods of time without becoming bored or distracted. Set your sights on a specific and challenging goal. While flow can occur by doing something at which you are average, it is most likely to occur when you are pushing your skills to the limit. For example, a musician trying to play a piece they have difficulty with, or a programmer trying to optimize an algorithm.
As you engage in your activity, you should feel a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. This will push you to continue the activity.
When you encounter problems or get frustrated, don’t stop. These are signs that you are making progress and nearing a flow state. If you come across something that you cannot solve, take a break and try again later. You don’t want frustration to prevent you from reaching your goal.
There are a number of different states that are somewhat similar to flow.
Sources & references used in this article:
Spirituality and being in the zone in team sports: A relationship? by KM Dillon, JL Tait – Journal of Sport Behavior, 2000 – search.proquest.com
Developing a mental game plan: mental periodization for achieving a” flow” state for the track and field throws athlete by LW Judge, RJ Bell, D Bellar, E Wanless – The sport journal, 2010 – go.gale.com
Physiological Correlates of the “Flow” Experience: EEG Measures of Attentional State by T Tay – 2016 – scholarworks.unr.edu
In Search of the Meaning of Happiness through Flow and Spirituality. by CT Martinez, C Scott – … Journal of Health, Wellness & Society, 2014 – search.ebscohost.com
Zone in: USING HYPNOSIS IN SPORT PSYCHOLOGY. by JC Kimiecik, GL Stein – Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 1992 – Taylor & Francis
The breakout principle: How to activate the natural trigger that maximizes creativity, athletic performance, productivity, and personal well-being by JH Edgette – European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 2004 – search.ebscohost.com