Have you heard of flow ? If not, you’ve probably heard something about the area . Being in the zone and experiencing flow are two similar ways of describing optimal experiences while carrying out an activity, only that “being in the zone” has a more colloquial use, and flow is the official term used in sports psychology. It turns out that athletes perform better when they experience flow, and that there is an exact formula with which to reach flow and, therefore, perform more. This is really good news for high-performance coaches and athletes, as it can be applied directly using mindfulness meditation exercises for children.
Since 1992, numerous studies have been conducted on flow and its relationship to optimal sport experience and performance. Researchers have even discovered several ways to induce flow status, or train athletes to experience the condition more easily by introducing mindfulness meditation exercises for children into their training routines.
At Ertheo , we have researched this new field of sports psychology to learn more about new discoveries in research on mindfulness meditation and its relationship to flow, sports anxiety and sports performance improvement. Afterward, we consulted experts from around the world in mindfulness meditation for children to help us create a list of mindfulness meditation exercises for children and help reduce anxiety in sports , as well as improve sports performance.
Mindfulness meditation for children and flow
5 mindfulness meditation exercises for kids
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Let’s talk about the area before
The area is a figurative mental space where extreme concentration and attention give us a kind of tunnel vision that improves our performance or productivity and changes our perception of time. When we are in the zone , we are so focused on what we are doing that we are almost in our own world, far from the real world around us.
Many of us experience the area in different ways during different activities. Some of us entered the area while creating, so focused on art that we forgot to eat dinner. Others come to the area while studying in the library or writing. Suddenly, we look out the library window and see darkness, because time has flown by. Sometimes we come to the area at work. These tend to be our most productive days.
Athletes often claim to be “in the zone” during their best performances. Connor McGregor, a former UFC champion, describes his experience in the ring: “When I’m in there. Simply in my area. What people think when they look at it is their problem. ” Mark Calcavecchia, a 13-time PGA tour winner, described his experience on the golf course: “When I’m in the area, I don’t think about the shot, the wind, the distance, the gallery or anything else. I just take the club and swing. ”
“When I’m in there. Simply in my area. What people think when they look at it is their problem. ”
Ca Calcavecchia, 13 times winner of the PGA tour
The area is a place full of joy. When we are in the area, we are often too focused to feel joy. We may not consciously feel joy at work or when we finish an important project, but once we finish it, we often think of our performance and success with satisfaction. At the same time, we often get exhausted, and we probably wouldn’t decide to complete an intensive soccer training program if there is no goal. That said, a recent study of the area has concluded that, after spending some time in the area experiencing flow, we feel that our lives have meaning and purpose.
Why do we call it flow?
Soon after witnessing the destruction of IIGM in Europe, the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihály Csíkzentmihályi became interested in what makes people happy in their daily lives and what gives meaning to their lives. He conducted numerous interviews with creative people in search of an answer, and found that most people experience happiness when they are so wrapped up in their work that they lose touch with reality. In other words: people are happy when they are in the area.
Do you want to know all its history? Here Csíkzentmihályi himself tells you:
However, while athletes often use “the zone” to describe optimal experiences during sport, Csíkzentmihály discovered that people with creative works (artists, musicians, writers, just like athletes) explain their optimal experience as a kind fluency. In 1972, Csíkzentmihály published a book entitled “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” , where he spoke about the phenomenon of being in the area. He called it flow, and he described all the benefits it can have on human experience.
What does it feel like to experience flow?
Csíkzentmihályi described flow as “being fully involved in an activity for your own good. The ego is in the background. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought inevitably follows the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved in the action and you use your abilities to the limit. ” [one]
Csíkzentmihályi’s description is quite good, but it can be too poetic. Here you can see a short summary:
- Your perception of time changes – Athletes who experience flow often explain that the clock seemed to slow down or stop.
- You lose self-awareness – Athletes who experience flow often describe an indifference to others and how people react to their actions.
- You focus only on the present – Athletes who experience flow often describe an intense concentration on what they are doing. “We seemed to be just the basket and me,” they often say.
- Your work, at that moment, seems fluid and effortless – Athletes who experience flow describe their experiences as easy and usually unconscious. Their bodies simply lead them to victory.
In this way, people are not only happier when they are in the area or in the flow flow, but they are also more productive. Sounds good, right? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a special formula that would help athletes experience flow? Good news: there is!
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Do you want to skip this part? You can click on one of the following links.
Mindfulness meditation for children and flow : How can midnfulness meditation for athletes help them experience flow and perform better?
5 mindfulness meditation exercises for kids : Meditation exercises designed by experts especially for athletes
How can we get to the flow?
Some people experience flow more easily than others. Csíkzentmihályi says that people with autotelic personality are more likely to experience flow. Autotelism is the belief that enjoying work is a justification in and of itself. The autotelic personality is characterized by including curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness and the desire to carry out activities for only intrinsic reasons. ” [one]
Similarly, some researchers have tested the relationship between personality characteristics and the experience of flow in amateur vocalist students. They found that the state of flow is easier to achieve by outgoing students. They also found that for the most nonconforming students, flow was more difficult to achieve.  Fortunately, flow does not depend solely on personality characteristics: many other external factors influence the probability of experiencing flow in any proposed activity.
Autotelic personalities are more likely to experience flow.
What are the 9 dimensions of flow? How are they related to sport?
Csíkzentmihályi created a kind of formula to achieve flow, pointing out nine elements of flow that allow and describe the flow experience. These are:
- The balance between challenges and skills
- The fusion between action and consciousness
- Clarity of goals
- Clear and concise feedback
- Total concentration on the current task
- The sense of control
- Loss of self-awareness
- The distortion of time perception
- The autotelic experience
When an individual experiences all nine elements at the same time, he is experiencing an optimal state of flow. However, individuals can bring together some elements independent of others. In this case, they would be experiencing a state of partial flow.
It turns out that athletes can meet the nine dimensions of flow when they practice their sport and, when they do, they value their performance better.  In the next section, we will talk about how flow can improve sports performance; But first, we will explore the nine dimensions of flow according to Csíkzentmihályi and how they relate to sport:
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1. The balance between challenges and skills
The state of flow requires a balance between our perception of the level of the challenge and the level of our ability. This means that we should have confidence in our ability to complete the task, while at the same time being able to recognize that completing the task would require our full concentration and attention on that challenge and at that time.
- In sports, as athletes improve their skills, the level of challenge increases. They also level up and compete against better opponents or set new challenges to overcome. Sports provide athletes with the opportunity to continue challenging themselves and continue to improve, which also makes sports more fun for them.
2. The fusion between action and consciousness
The state of flow often produces a feeling of unity between action and consciousness. This means that, during the flow, we can easily describe our feeling while carrying out any task. Our mind is fully present in the activity, without being distracted by any other event or challenge that may cause pain or anxiety in our daily life. During the flow, any stimulus from the world that is external to the activity simply vanishes, and we feel one with what we do at the time.
- In many aspects of sport, athletes act almost automatically, using their muscle memory to carry out previously learned techniques. In this way, they can focus on the more complex tasks of their sport. For example, advanced tennis players may not need to consciously think about how to hit the ball, but they can still decide where the ball should go to put them in an advantageous position and win the point. For advanced athletes, the simplest aspects of their sport come naturally. The tennis players feel one with their rackets, so to speak. This frees up your ability to think more complexly and strategically in order to experience flow.
3. The clarity of the goals
The state of flow also requires clear goals. To enter the flow, we must be able to describe exactly what we are supposed to do before trying to complete the task. In this way, during the activity, we can focus all our attention on reaching that goal.
- Clear objectives are part of the rules and structure of the sport. Athletes must score, earn a certain number of points, be the fastest, etc. Even outside the context of winning, clear goals are a key element of the sport itself. In soccer, the ultimate goal should be to score more goals than the opposing team. During the game, the players know how to maintain possession, make clean passes, recover the ball on defense, etc. All of these tasks are clear goals that soccer players understand before the game, which, in fact, facilitate flow.
4. Clear and concise feedback
Clear and concise feedback on how we are acting is another key element of the flow. To experience flow, we must receive positive feedback on our performance. Feedback can be received in several ways: sometimes it comes from an external source; Others simply come from our clear goals.
- For athletes, feedback comes from a wide range of factors, often at the same time. Athletes receive feedback on how their bodies move through space from their own kinesthetic consciousness. When a trampoline jumper does a perfect jump or a gymnast does a perfect cartwheel, they don’t need to know the jury’s score to know they’ve done a good job. However, most of the time, athletes receive additional feedback from the jury, fans, coaches, or simply reaching their goals. The feedback athletes receive when they perform well facilitates flow.
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5. Total concentration on the current task
Total concentration on the task is one of the clearest signs of experiencing flow, and is highly related to the balance between challenges and abilities. When our skill level becomes high enough to complete the task, in order to truly complete it, we need full concentration. In doing so, we put aside all the anxiety and all the problems of daily life, and we begin to enjoy the moment. If we are able to complete the task while thinking about what we are going to cook for dinner that night, our thoughts can wander and get us out of the state of flow.
- This fifth element is one of the most important when it comes to experiencing flow. Many sports have the potential to provide a challenge that is complicated enough to require complete concentration on the part of the athlete, especially at an advanced level. While some sports require complete physical control and concentration, others require more brain power to act strategically. In general, most individual sports that do not have the face-to-face component, such as gymnastics, require more physical control and concentration. Other sports, especially team sports like soccer, hockey, American football, etc. they require a great deal of mental energy to be able to play strategically based on the movements of their own team and those of their opponents. Martial arts have a special facility to induce flow, since they require a balance between the concentration of the mind and the body.
6. The sense of control
The sixth element of flow is the feeling of control, which is closely related to the balance between challenges and abilities. It should be noted that the key to experiencing the sixth dimension of flow is the sense of control, not total control, which would imply that we easily have the necessary skills to complete the task. A sense of control, however, implies that we only have the necessary skills if we focus all of our attention on what we are doing right then and there. On the other hand, if our abilities are well below the challenge level, we may feel out of control and begin to doubt our abilities. This doubt would take us out of the present, and it would also take us out of the state of flow.
- Sports provide the perfect environment to experience a sense of control without full control. As soon as athletes begin to get closer to experiencing complete control, they tend to force themselves to accept new challenges to advance their sport. When a jumper makes a somersault and a half jump from the fold position, they can try to make a slightly more complicated jump. When a soccer team starts winning almost every game, it goes up to a higher division. When a climber begins to feel comfortable with a cliff, they may be interested in a steeper or higher one. When an athlete sets out to carry out new challenges without going too far, he maintains a sense of control. This balance establishes the flow.
The following image is a visual demonstration of the state of flow compared to other states we experienced. As you can see, we feel full control when the challenge level is moderate, but our skills are advanced. Flow is just above control, where our skill is advanced, but so is the level of challenge, requiring our full attention.
7. Loss of self-awareness
Loss of self-awareness is another important element of flow. Most people live their lives constantly evaluating and judging themselves, and worrying about the judgments made by others. When we are self-conscious, we are not centered: we are distracted by our thoughts, and we are not in contact with the present. This is why loss of self-awareness is such an important aspect of flow – because self-awareness distracts us from the task at hand. This is also the reason why balance between skill and challenge level and complete concentration on the task are so important to flow. When we need total concentration to complete a task, we cannot let self-conscious thoughts distract us, or we cannot get them.
- Some athletes are more likely than others to frequently experience a loss of self-awareness during their activities. Many athletes find it difficult to carry out such abstraction during competitions, or in front of large masses of people, due to their concern about the judgments of their spectators and coaches. This phenomenon is called performance-inhibiting anxiety. Performance inhibitory anxiety is a big problem for many athletes, because their self-awareness is often very difficult to control. It’s hard to get away from the habit of judging yourself, but athletes must break this bad habit and give up self-awareness to experience the state of flow and perform optimally.
8. The distortion of time perception
The distortion of time perception refers to our perception of time. A very deep flow has the power to make us experience time faster or slower compared to how it really is. When we are so intensely focused on a task in the present, time seems to vanish or be of minuscule importance.
- This dimension of flow can be somewhat difficult for athletes to experience, since for many sports, wins and losses are determined based on a specific time period. As a result, players are very aware of when they win or lose time. In other sports, such as tennis, it is played until a certain result is achieved. The importance of time in a sport can influence an athlete’s ability to experience the transformation of time. In any case, whether an athlete achieves this dimension of flow or not depends largely on his personality.
9. The autotelic experience
An autotelic experience is rewarding in itself. This means that we do the activity because the activity itself makes us feel good, not because we receive external compensation, such as money, status, approval, etc., even if we end up receiving it later. Csikszentmihalyi said that in many cases, flow experiences bring us so much joy that we look for them until they become autotelic. It is not until after the flow experience, however, when we experience this joy, because during the flow itself, we tend to be too focused on the task to experience the pleasure.
- Most sports were invented with the intention of entertainment. When at the beginning of time we started kicking balls around and throwing balls into baskets, we didn’t do it to get fame or fortune. We probably started doing it because we were bored and looking for ways to enjoy our recently discovered free time. After all, many of the world’s most popular sports today were invented in the late 18th century, just before the industrial revolution. With the new machines doing all of our field work, we had more time to sit down and think of new ways to have fun. Unfortunately, the pressure to surrender and win means that many athletes are unable to enjoy their sport. Others enjoy their own pressure and competition, and said pressure is added to the enjoyment of the sport. Anyway, it is much easier to experience flow when we practice a sport because we love it.
How can flow improve our sports performance?
Since Csíkzentmihályi began investigating flow in the 1970s, researchers have been interested in the relationship between flow and peak sport performance, where flow is an internal state, and peak performance refers to performing optimally. .
In 1992, researchers found that athletes who performed optimally claimed to experience full commitment, clearly defined goals, feedback on how they were doing it, concentration on carrying out the activity, thoughts about their own task, sense of control and feelings of fun, trust and enjoyment. Basically, athletes who performed optimally were experiencing the nine dimensions of flow. 
Later, the researchers discovered that “athletes who reached the states of flow and relaxation showed the most optimal states, while athletes in the apathetic state presented the least optimal states. [Additionally, they found] positive associations between athletes’ flow experiences and measures of their performance, indicating that positive emotional states are related to high levels of performance. ” 
All this study seems to indicate that flow is an optimal internal state that can result in improved sports performance. This means that, if we want to squeeze out our potential, we should try to experience flow whenever possible. As mentioned above, however, reaching the flow state is easier for some people than others. Let’s talk about the common limitations of the flow experience and how to deal with them.
What makes us fail to experience flow?
Researchers have discovered that some major flow limitations for athletes are sports anxiety and general pessimistic thinking. 
Athletes suffering from sports anxiety are constantly concerned about their overall performance, their ability to perform during competitions and / or injuries or illnesses that could hinder them during or before competitions. Read more about common mental challenges at sportspsychologytoday.com.
Let’s think again about the seventh dimension of flow: the “lack of self-awareness”. Anxiety in sports is directly related to high self-awareness and, therefore, totally breaks the state of flow.
Furthermore, the anxiety experienced by elite athletes in the face of disease symptoms is connected to the risk of injury during a competition. In a specific study, athletes who were more concerned with the symptoms of illness before competition were five times more likely to injure themselves. 
That said, anxiety in sports not only prohibits athletes from experiencing flow and therefore performing below their potential. Sports anxiety is also dangerous for athletes on a physical level.
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Mindfulness meditation for children and flow
How can mindfulness meditation for children reduce sports anxiety and increase the possibility of experiencing flow?
Recent studies suggest that mindfulness meditation exercises can help athletes control negative thoughts and anxiety in sports, allowing them to focus on their skills and be more efficient. 
Additionally, researchers have found that athletes with higher levels of mindfulness are more likely to experience various dimensions of flow, including balance of challenges and abilities, clarity of goals, concentration, fusion of action and awareness, and loss of self-awareness.  This study suggests that mindfulness can act as a catalyst to reach flow.
Here you can see more evidence:
In 2009, researchers claimed that Mindfulness Sport Performance Enhancement ( MSPE) training improved flow, mindfulness, and aspects of sports confidence that could lead to improved performance. 
In 2015, researchers discovered that mPEAK ( Mindfulness Performance Enhancement, Awareness and Knowledge , or “improvement, mindfulness, and mindfulness practice knowledge”) training improves the ability to identify and describe everything from feelings and reactions to bodily sensations, meaning that mPEAK training could help athletes adjust to high stress and develop greater resilience. [eleven]
In 2016, a group of researchers analyzed the effects of the MiCBT program ( Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behavior Therapy , or “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy based on Integrated Mindfulness”) on cyclists. The results suggested that mindfulness-based interventions linked to one’s own athletic goals can be effective in facilitating a flow experience and, therefore, can improve athlete performance. 
The relationship between mindfulness meditation, flow, and optimal performance is a relatively new field of sports psychology. Still, researchers are confident that:
- Flow is the result of positive self-concept and self-confidence
- Flow is related to optimal performance
- Sports anxiety inhibits the flow experience
- Mindfulness meditation for children can help them control anxiety in sports
That said, mindfulness meditation practices for children may be the key to reducing their sports anxiety and unblocking flow, so that athletes can perform optimally.
Read more about the proven benefits of mindfulness
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What is mindfulness meditation for children?
Let’s talk about the difference between mindfulness, meditation and mindfulness meditation. While mindfulness is usually described as a state, meditation is often defined as an exercise.
According to Giovanni Dienstmann , meditation expert and certified teacher,
Meditation is a mental exercise in regulating attention. It is practiced both focusing attention on a single object, internal or external (focused attention meditation) or paying attention to what prevails in your present experience, without letting your attention focus on anything in particular (monitoring meditation open).”
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is usually described as a state of consciousness. According to Greater Good Magazine from the University of California, Berkeley ,
“ Mindfulness means maintaining a minute-by-minute awareness of our thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the environment, through a calm and natural vision. Mindfulness also implies acceptance, which means that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them – without believing, for example, that there is a “right” or “wrong” way of thinking or feeling at any given time. “
“Mindfulness is a superpower, and the way to achieve it is through meditation.”
Let’s recap: mindfulness is a state of being that requires self-awareness without self-criticism. By practicing this self-awareness, we can learn to feel only our emotions without being carried away by them. This means that we don’t let our thoughts make us more angry, envious, nervous, etc. than we already are, but we don’t judge ourselves for feeling this way either.
There are many different mindfulness meditation exercises for children that can improve their mindfulness during the day to day. Likewise, they can also practice specific mindfulness exercises for children while practicing their sport. Regardless of what mindfulness exercises for children they practice, it is important to follow some basic guidelines to make sure they get the best of themselves in each exercise. Check out these guidelines on mindful.org :
Mindfulness meditation guide for children
There is no way to silence your mind. The goal is not to silence your mind. The goal is for you to be aware of your mind.
Your mind will wander. While practicing mindfulness meditation for children, it is normal for your mind to lose focus and think about something that happened to you the day before, or on your to-do list, for example.
If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the present. This is a great advantage of mindfulness meditation for children – learning to recognize when your mind has wandered into the past or future so that you can bring it back to the present.
Don’t judge yourself for rambling. When you judge yourself, your mind is on the past. Instead of judging or criticizing, simply refocus your mind on your breath and your body on the present.
Use your breath as an anchor to the present. Breathe deeply from your belly while doing the mindfulness meditation exercises for children. Even during body scanning or muscle relaxation exercises, deep breathing is essential to connect your body and mind to the present.
5 mindfulness meditation exercises for kids
At Ertheo, we have collaborated with mindfulness meditation experts from around the world who specialize in mindfulness meditation for children. Together, we have compiled a list of mindfulness meditation exercises for children, coaches, and / or athletes to incorporate into their training.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise with Power Pose
- Self-conscious body scan
- Progressive muscle relaxation of the entire body
- Soccer vision
- Self-conscious meditation walk