Recent research on the elusive state called “The Zone” or “Flow State” is giving us insight into what is actually happening in the brain and body and how to enjoy shortcuts into this naturally euphoric state. For anyone that has experienced the creative flow state, whether in sports, the arts or your favorite pass time, this physical and mental information may provide beneficial insights. However, the real benefits of getting into “The Zone” are not in the performance benefits but are autotelic, having an end or purpose in themselves…joy, bliss, transformation!!! Read below for shortcuts into the Zone and about the 4 Stages of the Zone.
Short cuts into “The Zone”:
STAGE 1: THE STRUGGLE Challenge yourself: The key is to find your edge, preferable in a safe way. Recent research suggests increments of 4% is an ideal amount to push yourself. The Fight-Flight response is often the first stage before getting into “The Zone” called the STRUGGLE. Adrenaline, cortisol and Norepinephrine are released. Directing attention and positive self talk can help you find your edge.
STAGE 2: RELEASE: The relaxation response (nitric oxide then dopamine and endorphins) is the key to moving further along the pathway. This stage is called RELEASE. If you get stuck in fear then the consequences are detrimental and maybe even dangerous.
Ways to Release: breath, center, mindfulness, “situational awareness” (directing attention; focus), visualize
- Visualize: Since the 1930s we’ve known that mental rehearsal (visualization) correlates to better performance. In fact, there is a tight link between our visual system and physiology (Steven Kotler, 2014). If you can see yourself doing the impossible, it is more likely. We can even get stronger just by thinking about it (2004, Cleveland Clinic).
- Centering: See my blog, Balance and Center practice
STAGE 3: THE ZONE OR FLOW STATE See my blog, I’m in the Zone, What’s happening to me?
STAGE 4: RECOVERY The fourth stage is Recovery!!! You won’t want to skip this one. As researchers study the after state of being in the Zone (when Serotonin is released) they realize that recovery is essential. Serotonin explains the confusion and euphoria many experience after being in the Zone. Most sports naturally have a time of recovery built in with an off season, but even during the season you can spend time recovering. This will keep you feel fresh and ready for your next challenge!!!
Ways to Recover: rest, foam roll, ice, massage and meditate
Also even if you don’t make it into the Zone, you’ll want to recover.
Other shortcuts into the Zone:
PRACTICE: Create muscle memory through play and challenging practice.
CROSS TRAINING: Cross train with meditation, fitness, sports mindset education, multisport training and biofeedback devices.
- An example of cross training is a golfer rock climbing to increase shoulder and arm strength.
If you’d like to learn more about practices to bring you into the zone, schedule a session with Sheri Pate, Sports Mindset Coach at 805 279-3617. (*References from, The Rise of Superman, Steven Kotler, 2014)