I recently heard that the present moment lasts two to three seconds. It’s here, and then it’s gone. It’s back! Oh, it’s gone again. Time is elusive, just barely out of grasp, but I have had those rare, enlightening experiences where time slows down—that space that’s known as a flow state.
Popularized by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, he defines flow state as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” Notice how consciousness is without “self.” Flow state is attached to an activity. To get there, you need to be fully engrossed in what you’re doing.
To find out how to get into a flow state and why it’s so beneficial, I reached out to athlete, musician, certified yoga teacher, and founder of Undone, Paige Willis, to unpack it for us. Her work in mind-body generation proved to unveil an accessible approach to this powerful form of being.
PHOTO: Paige Willis, Founder of Undone
What does it mean to be in a flow state?
You’re in a flow state when your mind and body are fully immersed in the present moment.
It’s what we usually refer to as being “in the zone.”
Nothing can distract you or take you away from the task at hand, not even hunger or fatigue. It’s essentially having immense clarity at any given moment.
How do you get in a flow state?
To get in a flow state, set the scene with rituals that make you feel grounded and at ease. When you turn to these rituals moments before you have to focus, it helps get your mind and body on the same page—it roots you in the present moment.
Keep in mind, what you’re doing in a flow state isn’t just any task—there’s depth to it. In other words, getting in a flow state occurs when you care about what you’re doing.
It requires a bit of passion and challenge. That’s what keeps you immersed like creating a business plan for the LLC you dreamt up versus doing the dishes.
What are some practices you recommend for mind/body connection?
Yoga is my favorite way to find a mind-body connection. It challenges you to unite your mind and body on the mat and focus on that for a set amount of time. Meditation is also great for achieving that connection. With both practices, it’s important to know that there are a lot of styles to choose from. So if you did either one time and hated it, try again. Find something that works for you.
When you practice yoga and meditation regularly, you start to train your mind and body to focus on the present—a key ingredient for getting in a flow state. You start to warm up to what it feels like for your mind and body to be in fluid conversation, working together in the present moment.
PHOTO: Image by Riley Reed
What are examples of flow state?
Whenever you’re locked in on the present, you’re in a flow state. This can be in a yoga class, where you’re using your mind and body to flow through different shapes on the mat, or a brainstorm, where you’re coming up with your next big creative project.
There’s no limit to what a flow state can be for you, only key ingredients. You’ll need space, a sense of groundedness, passion, skill, challenge, and minimal to no distractions.
I make space with rituals that make me feel grounded. This might involve activities like: listening to a playlist, going for a walk outside, meditating, video chatting with a friend or cooking a meal. I pay close attention to the activities and people that make me feel most like myself. The ritual I choose depends on the task I’m preparing for and what I feel like I need on that day (because yes, it changes often).
Why is a flow state good for us? What are the benefits?
Being in a flow state is good for your soul. It offers clarity and creates space for you to concentrate on what you care about, which inherently makes us more joyful in the work we’re doing.
It treats your mind and body to a sense of calm and you’ll walk away from it feeling lighter. You’ll feel full and peaceful because you’re operating in your craft.
PHOTO: Paige Willis, Founder of Undone
How do you get into a flow state?
I get started from a ritual that grounds me and by the time I begin the task at hand, I usually feel rooted and secure, which helps me tune out the world and turn inward. That rootedness results in the end-product being authentic to me and what I’m about. It all flows together.
Do what makes you feel like you. Then, do something you love and whatever comes out of it will be a representation of the innermost part of you.
It’s really simple. But we lose sight of how important it is to give ourselves time and space to prepare for a flow state because we’re constantly in grind mode. We’re used to rushing from meeting to meeting that we don’t take time to breathe and ask ourselves, “What do I need to fully show up at this moment?”