Ever heard a dancer or athlete say they were, “in the zone?” Well, that experience is what psychologists call “flow state.” Psychologists understand flow state as an optimal state of consciousness that improves mental and physical performance. In deep focus, flow allows us to transcend time and enter an indescribable dimension.
Why Does Flow State Matter?
Decreased Anxiety and Overthinking – During flow state, the brain goes into energy conservation mode and temporarily “turns off” specific parts of the brain that aren’t necessary for the task at hand. Lucky for us, the part of our brain responsible for anxiety, negative self-talk, doubt, etc. gets turned off.
Increased Creativity and Information Processing – Since the control centers for worry and self-doubt are paused during flow state, we are left with the freedom to engage in risk-taking and creativity. Plus, flow state allows us to process information quicker, 2 seconds quicker to be exact.
Let’s talk about how we can achieve flow both in workplace and studio settings:
- Consistency + Approachable Challenge
If you’re looking to enter flow state more often, this is the first step. Ensure that you have a consistent process or routine. Your brain will adapt to this sense of familiarity and will be more apt to focus. Here’s the catch – your brain gets bored! So, the key is to progressively incorporate a moderate challenge into th routine. This keeps your brain on its toes.
In the Studio – Have an established warm-up routine or technique exercise that becomes more complex throughout the season.
In the Workplace – Create a pre-work ritual. Maybe it’s sipping your morning coffee while responding to emails. Whatever it is, make sure the task is fairly simple to help get your brain goin.
- Uninterrupted Concentration
It takes at least 20 minutes of intentional focus to enter flow state, which means we have to be patient.
In the Studio – The first 20 minutes are the most important – be especially mindful of this when starting class or rehearsal. This time is even more crucial for those dancers that have difficulties focusing or feel the need to ask a plethora of questions.
In the Workplace – When you’re about to start working, set a timer for yourself. Refrain from multi-tasking for a full 20 minutes and decrease distractions.
- Just Do It
Take the pressure off! Oftentimes, we dread or overcomplicate a task, project, or routine which decreases our ability to enter flow state.
In the Studio – Use some simple self-talk phrases. “It’s not that big of a deal, it’s just recital choreography.” “It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a dance competition.” “This hard technique exercise only requires 3 minutes of my time.
In the Workplace – Consider the magnitude of the project and divide it up into small sections/steps. Then, schedule a realistic time window to complete each section and dive in. Of course, adjust as needed!