Think back to a time when you were fully immersed in an activity; it could have been during exercise or even playing a game. Your senses were heightened, very little could distract you, time flew by and it felt like your mind and body were in complete harmony.
You could call it a state of energised focus or being ‘in the zone’. This feeling is what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the ‘flow state’. It’s known
to improve happiness, performance, creativity, learning and development, intrinsic motivation, enjoyment and fulfillment of tasks. As such, being able to find your ‘flow’ is extremely beneficial for exercise, and for work and hobbies too.
Here are my 5 tips to help find your flow state in exercise:
1. Do what you enjoy.
You’ve probably heard the saying “The best exercise is the exercise you enjoy” or a variation of it. This is because it’s the one you will do. Taking part in a physical activity that you enjoy is one of the best things you can do to find your flow state and ensure you commit to the exercise long-term.
If you perceive exercise as a chore, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find an activity that works for you and your lifestyle. There are many training disciplines out there (the Olympic Games has 42!) so, if you haven’t found it yet, keep searching or refer to something that has worked for you in the past. It could even be quidditch!
2. Optimise focus - Caffeine and Music.
Caffeine may not be everyone’s cup of tea (pardon the pun) but it is known for its performance enhancing properties which stimulate the central nervous system by blocking adenosine receptors which are responsible for making us tired. Caffeine is found in White Wolf Nutrition’s Natural Pre-Workout and I can personally confirm that it helps you get into the flow state.
Exercise without music is like Wheet-Bix without milk. It’s just not right. Shortlisting your favourite songs to match your workout vibe will help you get into the zone.
3 Engage with something that’s challenging, but not too challenging.
Often when a task is too easy, we get bored or distracted. When a task is too difficult, we get overwhelmed and lose focus. If a task is challenging, yet within our skill-set, we find flow.
For example, one-on-one basketball. If an intermediate player competes against a novice, it’s not very engaging for either party. However if their skill levels are matched, they are more likely to find their flow.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, “If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills”.
4. Focus on the journey and not the destination.
Focussing on the end result (goal) can keep us longing for what will be and not what is. This creates stress and discontent. Focussing on the process (routines and habits) and celebrating the small wins along the way generates endorphins which stimulate and motivate us – also contributing to the flow state.
All progress takes time, so be patient.
5. Eliminate distractions
Distractions compete for your attention and threaten your flow. This can be in the form of notifications on your phone or even that guy at the gym who continuously interrupts your sets. Try to eliminate or minimise the likelihood of distractions. Allocate a specific time for exercise, don the headphones and put your phone on ‘do not disturb’.
Now go forth and find your flow!
Chris Nayna is a health professional with more than five years’ clinical experience as a Registered Nurse. After specialising in critical care cardiology, Chris decided to shift his passion for health out of the hospital, with an interest in reaching and helping people in the prevention phase of their health journey. He merged his love of fitness and health and created a personal training studio called Train Station Fitness. He now works with clients in-person and online and seeks to inspire, motivate and educate people through personalised training regimes