by Rachel Webb
When looking for the latest and most effective performance enhancement strategies there has been a growing amount of research on the benefits of mindfulness training . In this particular article, The Effect of Mindfulness Training on Athletes’ Flow: An initial Investigation we can see the relationship between mindfulness training and flow experiences in athletes (Aherene, Moran, & Lonsdale, 2011). Mindfulness is defined in this article as bringing ones complete attention to the present experience and doing so on a moment-to moment basis and accepting the given situation you are in. Clearly, using this form of mindfulness in competitive situations could have a positive effect on an athlete’s performance because it encourages focusing on the present moment rather than thinking too far ahead (Aherene, Moran, & Lonsdale, 2011). Thinking too far ahead has often been associated with causing anxiety and distraction from the task at hand for an athlete. As for the construct of ‘flow’ we look at the ability to enter a highly coveted yet elusive state of mind that is characterize by complete absorption in the task at hand as well as by enhanced skilled performance. Simply by definition we can see the similarities in these states of concentration. There are nine dimensions of flow state which include; challenge-skill balance, action-awareness merging, clear goals, unambiguous feedback, concentration on task, sense o control, loss of self-consciousness, time transformation, and autotelic experience (Aherene, Moran, & Lonsdale, 2011).
This specific study looks at 13 athletes in order to investigate the relationship between mindfulness training and its effects on flow state during a competitive sport training and using the nine dimensions as focus points in hopes to identify positive changes in flow. The 13 athletes were randomly assigned to either a control or experimental group and asked to first complete a Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale- Revise (CAMS-R), which measured athletes approach to thoughts and feelings on a 12-item scale. Furthermore the athletes were tested using the Flow State Scal-2 (FFS-2), a 36-item that is designed to be answered after a specific event, will be summed to produce a global flow state score (higher scores are equivalent to a more intense of a flow experience). Athletes in the experimental group followed a 6-week mindfulness training program and all 13 were re-tested with both forms of measurement at the end of the 6 weeks. Results indicated that the athletes who underwent mindfulness training did report an increase in their global flow scores. Looking at the 9 dimensions of flow, the experiment athletes also saw significant increases in the dimensions of “Clear Goals and “Sense of Control”. This mindfulness training showed a heightened self-regulation of attention in the athletes and increases, but not significant differences, in challenge-skill balance as well as concentration. These findings extend upon previous research by providing support to the suggestion that mindfulness training can be a beneficial performance tool to a broad range of athletes even if they have not directly reported having problems with the mental aspect of their performance.
Aherne, C., Moran, P. A., & Lonsdale, C. (2011). The Effect of Mindfulness Training on Athletes’ Flow: An Initial Investigation. The Sport Psychologist. Human Kinetics, Inc. 25, 177-189)