FULLY PRESENT IN THE PRESENT
We should be focused on the journey, not the destination. If we are thinking about a destination, for example, making the time cross country or getting a clear round, we are not fully present in the present and we are not in flow. If we are trying to do something too hard, that we find stressful or frightening, we will not be in flow either.
We are more likely to find flow if we are not distracted. For example, if you are trying to build capacity to find a flow state you are best off riding alone, not being coached. Don’t have your ear pods in multi-tasking with listening to the latest podcast. Listening to music that helps you find the right level of arousal may be of benefit, but don’t listen to vocal music as the lyrics will not help you find flow. The part of the brain we use for verbal language is generally switched off in flow states, so you don’t want to pay attention to words.
We can build capacity to achieve flow by practising, but we probably can’t maintain it for longer than two hours. However, we don’t need to achieve flow for long periods of time when we ride.
Scientists don’t fully understand flow states, but some things are known. Not surprisingly, our dopamine networks are activated – the brain’s reward pathways. Of course, we know that this is also true of animals, that when they are performing something they have learned, their dopamine pathways are activated too. Dopamine makes us feel relaxed and energised and optimistic; our brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN) is activated.
Flow states make you happier, Csikszentmihalyi found in his seminal book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper, 1990). “If everything you do is for the simple act of being alive, you will never be bored or anxious. Flow is like a magnet for growth, it pulls us to higher and higher levels of being to increasingly complex experiences.”
He describes that it is possible to develop flow in all aspects of life, work, play, relationships. And that includes riding! Go with the flow! EQ