|dc.description.abstract||Adventure recreation participants, such as rock-climbers, skydivers, and free-style skiers have reported that one of the most important reasons for continued participation in adventure recreation is a state of mind focused on the present moment. Most psychologists have referred to this state as flow. More recently, sport and exercise psychology researchers have proposed another optimal state called clutch. However, the majority of optimal psychological states research in adventure recreation contexts has generally made use of flow models that treat optimal psychological states as a singular state. Thus, there is a need to better understand if and how distinct optimal psychological states, such as flow and clutch, function in adventure recreation contexts. This project is an investigation of flow and clutch states with a focus on the adventure recreation context. To understand the antecedents, characteristics, and consequences of flow and clutch states, the following three studies were completed: a systematic review of flow states in adventure recreation (Study One), a mixed method study with advanced rock-climbers in outdoor and indoor settings (Study Two), and a qualitative study with a diverse group of adventure recreation participants (Study Three).
Study One aimed to identify what is known about flow states that occur during adventure recreation. A systematic review, following PRISMA guidelines, of 10 databases (e.g., SPORTdiscus, PsychINFO) yielded 93 potentially relevant articles out of 9468 screened titles and abstracts. A thematic synthesis approach was used to appraise and synthesize 20 empirical articles, which fulfilled a priori eligibility criteria. Study Two used a sequential mixed-methods, qualitative-dominant design and included nine male and four female advanced and elite rock-climbers. During two separate climbing sessions (i.e., one outdoor, one indoor), participants completed the Core Flow questionnaire immediately after every climb that they ascended. Based on optimal state scores that fell within established high (or low) score thresholds, intensity sampling was used to identify participants for 13 interviews. Semi-structured interviews were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis and an abductive approach. Study Three sought to test and generalise the model of flow and clutch states proposed in Study Two among a more diverse group of 20 adventure recreation participants. Study Three interviews were conducted in two phases. First, participants were inductively interviewed about their most meaningful moments. Second, participants deductively evaluated the degree to which their experiences aligned with a proposed flow and clutch state framework.
The results from this project suggested potential antecedents, characteristics, and consequences of two distinct, yet overlapping, optimal psychological states that appeared to occur during both outdoor adventure recreation and their indoor equivalents. However, the outdoor (i.e., nature) context appeared to be more conducive to facilitating flow states. These findings extend current understandings of flow and clutch states beyond traditional sport and exercise contexts and demonstrates the utility of an integrated model of optimal psychological states for adventure recreation in a number of ways. For example, the findings suggested that flow and clutch states may be influenced through immersion in nature and a desire to manage risk. Furthermore, having a playful attitude and being focused on the activity process was reported to facilitate flow states, which were described as the enjoyment of effortless, fluid, and automatic movements. In contrast, clutch states were characterised by deliberate thoughts, a specific outcome in mind, and an awareness of both bodily movements and the ‘struggle’ or difficulty of a task being undertaken. Participants also reported that perceiving higher levels of risk and difficult goals were conducive to clutch states. After experiencing flow, participants reported additional vitality and a desire to repeat the experience. In contrast, participants reported a sense of accomplishment, relief, and exhaustion following clutch states.
To build on the current findings, future research recommendations include further examining how nature may facilitate flow states. In addition, future intervention research could examine how mental skill training (e.g., mindfulness) may help facilitate clutch states by allowing individuals to regulate perceived risk levels, and/or interpretations of task difficulty and challenge. Overall, the present research project has contributed to a growing body of evidence suggesting that adventure recreation and nature may both be beneficial for participants’ psychological well-being.||