From my point of view and personal experience they are very similar/overlapping. There are also some important differences…
Hypnosis is like quieting the conscious mind, the chattering monkey mind, and submitting suggestions directly to the subconscious mind.
In normal waking life the chattering conscious mind, the ego, is doing its thing running scripts/programs, and through hypnosis we can stop the unconscious ramblings of the ego and reprogram the core processing system of our brain with new and better programs/habits.
In flow states, the ego/chattering monkey mind also goes quiet. The body is running on autopilot. One can “zone out” or “get in the zone” or become aware of the zone in all its glorious zone-ness.
A flow state could easily be described as a moving meditation.
Hypnosis is generally used for a specific purpose. For example, someone wants to quit smoking. They go to a hypnotist that basically removes the addiction program and replaces it with a cigarettes are gross program.
So someone might go into a hypnotic trance to allow the hypnotist the opportunity to “reprogram” that habit.
Whereas in a flow state that is not the intention.
A flow state is similar in that you go into a trance, but it is a higher awareness level trance.
You are conscious of doing the thing, yet, you don’t seem to be the one doing it 🙂
It’s as if you are a passenger in the ride that is your life.
You may experience time distortions; you were having so much fun that you “lost track of time.”
Where were you when you lost your connection to “objective time?”
In a hypnotic state, the hypnotist can give a suggestion to the person under trance to forget or remember their trance experience.
If you practice self-hypnosis, you can prepare suggestions or questions to ask your subconscious mind and you can recall the experience when you wake from trance.
This is incredibly powerful!
This for me personally changed my life.
I started studying hypnosis in the 9th grade. School was tough for me on a lotta levels.
At first I just used it to do dumb kid stuff right?
“Okay, when I snap my fingers your arm will float like a balloon!”
Or, “every time you touch your thumb to your forehead you will feel like you just drank a beer!”
* friend proceeds to touch thumb to head repeatedly *
But then, I learned about positive affirmations.
Super cheesy I thought. Or were they?
In fact, turns out they are totally awesome!!!
AND, if you combine powerful positive affirmations with being in a hypnotic trance then you really start reprogramming your mind faster!
So anyway, flow states, for me personally, there are different types and levels. The way that I break it down is: Mind Flow, Body Flow, Spirit Flow, Social Flow, Cash FlowTM.
The one that often gets the most attention and one which I personally LOVE is the physical, “Body Flow” (#bodyflow) type that includes activities such as; dancing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, riding bikes, knitting, surfing, running.
I also personally love practicing sleight-of-hand and getting into flow states with it.
I also like doing “everyday activities” as mini-flow states such as, the way I get out of bed.
I don’t simply get out of bed in the morning.
I gently kick my feet out from the covers and swing my legs out and down toward the floor utilizing the momentum of my legs to pull me up effortlessly into a sitting position with my feet on the floor ready for me to stand up.
Why do I do this?
Because it is efficient.
Because it is fun.
Because it is a mini-flow state.
A moment of liquid zen.
Then I’m on to the next.
Brushing my teeth.
I brush them the same way every time.
Because it allows my mind to go other places, the monkey mind chatters or my ego starts planning my day for me, OR, I can quite the mind and go completely into the doing of the thing and experience flow while doing it.
AND, I can let the mind go upward in awareness and bring a higher vibrational energy/awareness through the body. #spiritflow
You can just get lost in the repetitions and enter flow states/trance.
In conclusion, flow states and hypnotic trance, in my opinion, are very similar.
Flow states are generally more enjoyable and feel amazing and are fun and it is the experience of the flow state itself that is the thing.
With hypnosis it is often more about changing some specific habit or limiting belief, or helping with trauma, etc.