The zone. Flow state. Transcendence. Regardless of whatever it's called, everyone from billionaire CEOs to professional athletes to college-aged kids are trying to reach the ultimate plane of efficiency and calm.
In recent years, taking up a regular meditation practice has been the (somewhat) conventional answer to clearing the mind and easing people into a flow state. There's no doubt that meditating, or the act of examining and focusing thoughts, has a plethora of mental and physical benefits. It can ease anxiety, increase IQ, improve empathy, and even boost self-confidence.
But the idea of sitting in lotus pose even for 20 minutes can feel overwhelming...or boring. Even if you're interested in achieving flow state, if you're a typical high-achiever Type A personality, then you might think that sitting cross-legged and breathing deeply is a waste of precious time.
If you're nodding your head in agreement, there are two things you should know. First, if you think you're too busy to meditate, you probably need meditation more than anyone! Secondly, meditation takes many forms—it isn't all chanting and hanging out in rock gardens. Check out four ways you can reap the benefits of meditating even if it's not your thing.
Stepping into the kitchen can be the key to entering flow state naturally for those who are a little shy about stretching their meditative muscles. If previously cooking on the stovetop was saved for only special occasions and holidays, reconsider the art of a home-cooked meal—for your mental health and your waistline.
Following a recipe forces even the most professional chefs to focus intently on the dish that's coming together in front of them. Especially if you're an amateur, chances are you'll be more concerned with getting the right ratio of sauce to pasta than you will with everything else that's happening in life. In fact, cooking can be so therapeutic that mental health professionals recommend cooking classes to their clients dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Not sure where to start? We know a few good recipes...
Lace up those sneakers
Heading out for a jog is much more than a cardio workout—self-proclaimed running "addicts" often cite their daily run as the only thing that keeps them sane. Of course, the feel-good endorphins that enter the body after a workout can help ease anxiety and stress, but the phenomenon known as "runner's high" is remarkably similar to a flow state.
Wanna get closer to nirvana with every step you take? The meditation experts at Headspace recommend that instead of allowing the mind to wander and focus on things like work, relationships, and bank accounts, bring attention to what is happening directly in front of you. Who else is on the trail with you? What does the sun feel like on your skin? Then draw your intention internally. How does your foot strike the pavement? Can you feel a sense of ease in your body as you run? Simply paying attention to how you feel can offer a level of mindfulness that looks a lot like meditation.
Head to the water
Disconnect from your mobile device for a while by going for a swim. Humans have believed in the healing power of water for centuries, using it as a main element of religious and mystical ceremonies. Floating and moving in water can help us reconnect to a sense of inner calm that we often lose in our busy day to day routines.
Plus, hydrotherapy is a popular way to help those dealing with chronic injury increase blood flow through the body and reduce pain. Another perk of swimming? There's very little that can distract you when you're underwater!
Ever watched a particularly funny episode of SNL and wondered exactly how they came up with that hilarious skit? Teamwork. Hours of working together, writing jokes, and rehearsing result in a three-minute skit that comes across as effortlessly hilarious.
Vibing with a group of people who are familiar and who understand each other can be akin to a group meditation session. It's why improv groups, jazz musicians, and working with your favorite coworkers can be simultaneously fun and productive. The key to getting the most out of working with a partner? Feeling relaxed and at ease with whoever you work with. Don't worry about embarrassing yourself—being hyper-aware can prevent you from fully entering a flow state.
Interested in learning more about meditation? Try an app like Headspace, or check out Deepak Chopra's Meditation Center for easy, guided meditations that are perfect for anyone, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro!
Illustration by Karley Koenig