What Is a Flow State?

When you’re engrossed in an activity, whether it’s running, yoga, meditation, or even work, everything else melts away. It can feel like no time at all has passed when in reality, hours have gone by. That feeling of complete absorption, otherwise known as “the flow state,” involves intense focus that can create moments of energy, calmness, and achievement. If this is the first time you’re hearing of flow, it’s actually been around for quite some time. Hungarian-American positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi was the first to identify and research flow in the 1960s.

According to Psychology Today, he studied the creative process and found that, when an artist was in the course of flow, they would persist at their task relentlessly, regardless of hunger or fatigue — similar to the idea of being “in the zone.” For award-winning journalists Katie Couric and Maria Shriver, flow is achieved in different ways. Read more below to see how today’s thought leaders achieve flow and why it’s so crucial to our overall health and well-being.

In a 1996 interview, Mihály describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” In essence, nothing else seems to matter when you’re in a state of flow except for the task at hand. It can occur while running a marathon, dancing, writing, or anything you find yourself completely immersed in.

Because people find flow through so many outlets, there are multiple ways to achieve it. The most important thing to remember is that anyone can find flow. You just have to have clear goals and remember the process is enjoyable, not the result. Christy Turlington-Burns, founder and president of Every Mother Counts says, “I like the word ‘flow’ because I do think there’s still this undue pressure of trying to find balance or trying to find happiness and I think flow is more active and easy.”

Being in a state of flow has the ability to make activities more enjoyable and create a sense of fulfillment and community, which in turn, leads to a happier, more satisfied life. Watch the video above for more insights from thought leaders on what flow means to them and how they achieve it.

How Katie Couric Finds Flow

Katie Couric defines flow as “firing on all cylinders” and being “super engaged in the world.”

How Maria Shriver Finds Flow

“When I’m in conversation with one of my adult children or a friend or when I’m at work, and we’re exchanging ideas — when I’m in community, I feel in flow,” says Maria Shriver.

How Christy Turlington-Burns Finds Flow

Christy Turlington-Burns, founder and president of Every Mother Counts, finds flow through yoga and meditation. “I was lucky to discover both of the practices and the philosophy of yoga early in my life,” she says.

How Emma Lovewell Finds Flow

“When I hear the world flow, I think of being super present and in the moment,” says Emma Lovewell. “For me, that happens a lot when I move my body.”

How Judy Greer Finds Flow

Judy Greer, actress, and founder of Wile, defines flow as “having no anxiety and feeling confident that everything that’s happening is supposed to be happening and that I can manage it.”

How Phoebe Robinson Finds Flow

Phoebe Robinson finds flow through exercise, which she schedules into her routine every morning. “I’ll wake up early, at 6:30 am, and that’s the hour where there are no emails, no texts, and no one’s bothering me.”

How Natalie Nixon Finds Flow

For Natalie Nixon, CEO of Figure 8 Thinking and author of The Creativity Leap, flow is a “deeply immersive state” when in the midst of a task and/or activity.

How Jamie Wheal Finds Flow

Jamie Wheal, the founder of the Flow Genome Project, defines flow as the moments when he “experiences selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and richness.”

How Michael Tennant Finds Flow

“Acting not from a place of trying to secure an outcome, but rather from a place of connecting to what is genuinely going to bring me happiness,” says Michael Tennant, author, keynote speaker, and founder of Actually Curious.

How Dr. Uchenna Ossai Finds Flow

Dr. Uchenna Ossai, a sex-positive pelvic health physical therapist, defines flow as “twerk sessions” she has to Phil Collins or Doja Cat.

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