Spartan Up! - A Spartan Race for the Mind!

What Is Mental Flow: A State Of Self-Motivation
Do you remember the last time you completely focused on a task that was both challenging and satisfying? It may have happened during your last a long race (Sprint, Super, or Beast), or listening to an intense piece of music, or while you were solving a crossword puzzle. What do those moments have in common? They may have been times when you experienced “flow.” What is it? How to achieve it?


Getting into “flow” (which is similar to what athletes call “the zone”) not only feels great, it has a great halo effect, too. One study shows that people who experience flow get positive after-effects – feeling more productive, creative and happy – for almost three days.

So how do know you’re in the flow? And how can you increase your chances of getting into it?

Here are some signs. The most common one is losing awareness of yourself and losing track of time. This is tightly connected with being completely focused on whatever task you’re doing and feeling completely in control over the requirements of that task as well as its outcome.

But that feeling of control doesn’t mean that the task is easy. You have to “earn” that feeling of flow. If the task is too easy, then it doesn’t require concentration. In contrast, when the task is too hard, your focus can be disrupted because you don’t feel in control. It’s that sweet spot in between. But even then, you can break down a difficult task into smaller parts that are easier but still require focus to master (like when an art student might give up on doing a whole portrait quickly and just focus instead on getting the eyes of the subject just right.)

So, it’s cool to be in flow, but how can you increase the chances of getting there?

Whether it’s a mental or a physical task, you can do three things to improve the chances of getting into flow.

1) Get the clutter out of your brain. This means putting tasks in order and making sure your responsibilities are all under control for the moment.
2) Stop interruptions. That means not letting little things interrupt you (like checking emails and texts) and procrastinating tactics like starting some big project at home that can easily be scheduled for another time.
3) Get calm. Hunger, thirst, and random noises can all make claims to our attention. Eat a snack, drink some water, and put on some music that might help you concentrate.

While for many people, experiencing “flow” may be a rare occurrence, you can (and should) practice achieving flow – in little ways as well as big. The more you practice, the more you’re likely to get there.


Flow is the “temporary psychological merger of the person with the activity” (Amabile). It is a product of (as well as a platform for) sustained focus to complete an activity. That activity involves some challenge that requires concentration, but it neither too easy nor too hard. There are ways to prepare yourself and your surroundings to increase the chances “getting in the zone.”


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Alayna Kennedy, “Flow State: What It Is and How to Achieve It,” Huffington Post, April 5, 2016,, accessed January 2019.

Teresa M. Amabile, et al., "Affect and creativity at work," Administrative science quarterly 50.3 (2005): 367-403,, accessed January 2019.

Chistine L. Carter, “3 Steps to Finding Your Flow,” Psychology Today, September 9, 2015,, accessed January 2019.

Melli O’Brien, “How to Enter the ‘Flow State’ Any Time: Four Simple Steps,” Melli O’Brien (blog),,
accessed January 2019.

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Producer: Marion Abrams, Madmotion, llc.
Writer and Host: Nada Milosavljevic MD, JD

© 2019 Spartan

Direct download: 24_Spartan_HEALTH_Mental_Flow.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30am EST