“Top athletes know winning not only requires physical exertion, but a specific state of mind. Sports experts are finding there are optimal states of mind conducive to peak sports performance.

This optimum mental state is called “automatic flow” according to Debra Crews, Ph.D., an assistant professor in exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. She describes it as a spontaneous, creative, intuitive kind of “high.” Time passes quickly, the mind zips along, grasping patterns and concepts with ease and movements are executed with precision and skill. Since automatic flow gives athletes a winning edge, sports experts are exploring the strategies athletes use to trigger its activation.

Crews was so intrigued by the possibility of the brain influencing athletic performance, she embarked on several studies exploring the connection. Her theory: By turning down the engine of the left brain (the analytical, decision-making zone) and revving up the right brain (the intuitive, creative, spontaneous zone), athletes can grasp new skills and concepts on a profound and potentially deeper level.

In one study, Crews asked 34 skilled golfers (17 men, 17 women) to attempt 240 12-foot putts. She used an electroencephalograph (EEG), a machine which records minute electrical impulses generated by brain activity, to determine the brain’s precise role just prior to and during putting.

Her initial prediction was right on target. The better performers showed a significant increase in right-hemisphere activity immediately prior to initiating the stroke, while their left brains slumbered.

State of mind is not easy to discern. In fact, many athletes harness this flow of mental energy without even realizing it. The experts have discovered the peak mental state, unfortunately, is hard to describe.

Participants in the golf studies, for example, are often unable to remember what they thought or did just before putting, says Crews. Many of the golfers replied their minds were blank, which makes sense because flow operates more on a “feel” basis rather than a verbal one, she says.”

Related Pages:

Automatic Flow 2
Flowing with Life
Genius-Right Brain
Living in the “Present”

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