Down-to-earth meditations

Meditation doesn’t necessarily require sitting on a cushion for an extended period of time. New forms of meditating can be done while you walk, garden or even wash your dishes. And they’re just as beneficial. 

Meditation changes the brain in a positive way. It makes you more attentive, your memory improves and your emotions take you on less of a ride. Meditation is also a good remedy for stress, anxiety and somberness. Many people view meditating as a waste of time, but sometimes doing nothing is actually the most efficient thing there is. Our brain uses every break to process information. This has a wide range of benefits, including a clearer mind and creative insights. You can actually kick into a higher gear by meditating on a regular basis. There are countless studies proving this to be true.

Starting a bullet journal

Writing lists on little pieces of paper is not the most effective way to keep track of things, journalist Bernice Nikijuluw found. So she tried something new: bullet journaling. It’s a surprisingly simple solution for keeping yourself organized. 

I have been keeping a Bullet Journal for a few months now and am very enthusiastic. Because it’s so simple and hardly takes any effort (‘rapid logging’, as Carroll, the developer of the Bullet Journal, calls this style of writing, is indeed very quick) and it now feels like my life is very organized. Gone are the messy stacks of scraps, and instead I have a tidy little notebook that I enjoy paging through.

I write down coffee dates, dinners and other social events in my Bullet Journal too, which are fun to look back on later. The only things I haven’t been able to find a place for are the non-urgent tasks and things I’d like to get around to one day: painting the bathroom, planning a vacation, making a photo album, stuff like that. I’ve devoted a page in the back to these things now, so that I don’t have to keep migrating them to the next month.



More grace in our lives

American author and dance critic Sarah Kaufman says we’d all be a lot happier if we allow more grace into our lives. We give ten tips. 

  1. Slow down. Rushing and grace don’t go together.
  2.  Practice being tolerant. Really listen to other people
  3.  Make space for others—on the sidewalk, in the train, in a café, at a meeting, in your life.
  4. Try to make things easy for other people.
  5. Don’t be hard to please. Accept compliments, or a seat offered on public transport. You can make other people feel good about what they are doing that way.
  6. Lighten your load. Take off shoes that pinch your feet. Free yourself of heavy bags.
  7. Move. Do yoga. Dance. It is easier to be gracious when your body is supple and relaxed.
  8. Practice being alert. Find grace where you least expect it.
  9. Be generous.
  10. Enjoy! Raise your glass to life!
  • You can read more about the story ‘More grace in our lives’ in Issue 21.

Text Annemiek Leclaire Illustration Marijke Buurlage

The power of curiosity

Being curious can enhance our lives. In Issue 17 you can read about some reasons why, plus eight ways how to do so. Below, we share two tips. 

Keep wondering about yourself
If you’re not feeling so good about yourself, it’s important to examine why. “If something is bothering you or your thoughts are agitated, try to approach yourself and your mind with friendly curiosity,” says American psychologist Ruth Baer. Don’t suppress or ignore the turmoil in your head, but open yourself up to it without judging what you notice. Greet your feelings kindly, like honored guests.” That’s how you can keep developing yourself.

Keep observing
Approach “boring” situations in a different way: As you stand in line at the checkout in the supermarket, instead of catching up on Facebook, study the labels of your groceries. Or observe what other people in the line are doing. In short, look carefully at what you would normally not notice.

  • You can read more about The Power of Curiosity in Issue 17.

Text Chris Muyres Photography Felix Hux/Stocky United Pixel Stories/ Stocky United

Three ways to be less busy

We want our days to be less busy and to have more free time in our schedule – but how? Here are three ways for achieving a more relaxed life, including throwing away your to-do list. 

  • Discover what is important to you
    People are as busy as they are nowadays because they don’t take the time to gure out what’s a priority to them, says business psychologist and author Tony Crabbe. But actually, it’s not that difficult: Just write down what you value the most. Crabbe’s values are: helping more good ideas find their way into the world, staying inspired and building strong relationships with his loved ones.“I begin each day by asking myself: How can I express these today?,” he says.“It’s one of the simple but essential mindfulness strategies that can help us make that choice about what we are going to spend our time and attention on.” So formulate the values you want to build your life on, but—and Crabbe says this is important—don’t think you have to set these values in stone. Accept that you might get it wrong and consider the values as hypotheses that can be adapted when appropriate. As Crabbe says: “I didn’t discover what was truly important to me until I was 40.”

A quick way to relax

If you’re looking for a quick way to relax, try the yoga-inspired 4-7-8 Breath technique created by Dr. Andrew Weil from Arizona in the US. 

  1. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
  2. Exhale completely and forcefully through your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  4. Hold your breath and count to seven.
  5. Exhale completely and forcefully through your mouth, making another ‘whoosh’ sound, to a count of eight.
  6. Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
  • You can visit and see how it’s done by Dr. Weil himself.

Text Julia Gorodecky Fotografie Shutterstock

Issue 21 is here

The new issue of Flow Magazine is here! And just to pique your curiosity, we’ve listed a few of things you’ll find inside.

  • For the love of grace
    According to American author Sarah Kaufman, having more grace makes for a happier life. Journalist Annemiek Leclaire finds out exactly what that entails.
  • An ode to failure
    Failing at something isn’t as bad as we all think: your attempt means you’re courageous. And fear of failure can hold you back from experiencing new things. Here’s to the positive side of not succeeding.
  • Hashtag home
    Thanks to Instagram, we can peek into the homes of people all around the world, without having to step out our own front door. Here, five Instagrammers invite us in.
  • Let’s get (less) busy
    Ten tips on how to take things slower. Tip 7: Forget the word ‘quickly’.

Issue 21 is now available in selected bookstores and in our shop.

Book for Paper Lovers 5

The best day of the year is when our newest Book for Paper Lovers comes out. And we are in love with the newest edition.

Already the fith edition of our Book for Paper Lovers. It’s a joy to put together, part because of the amazing people we work with from all around the world. But the best thing is that, no matter where we live, we all understand each other. That’s why this year’s edition has North, East, South, West as its theme.

Some of the paper goodies inside the book:

  • Birthday calender with artwork from Agnes Loonstra (The Netherlands)
  • Coloring pages with illustrations from Helena Carrington (United Kingdom)
  • Writing paper with paterns from Sanny van Loon (The Netherlands)
  • Window stickers with artwork from Jennifer Orkin Lewis (United States)

Flow’s Book for Paper Lovers 5 is available in selected bookstores and in our shop.

Live life in the slow lane

A languid walk, a slow bike ride, breakfast without checking the clock: slow is good. We share four tips for a lower pace.

  • Time to be idle
    It’s easy enough to say: try to be idle more often. How do you do that again? Simple: do what you feel like doing for as long as you feel like doing it. And not because it’s useful.
  • Be nice to yourself
    Slowing down also means being nice to yourself. You’re allowed to just relax. You’re allowed to simply sit on the couch with a cup of tea. Or once in a while, turn up late for something. All that is not as bad as it might seem.


Why a new start can feel good and scary at the same time

We can start again countless times in our lives: a new job, a new relationship, a new day. Why does a fresh beginning feel so good, yet at the same time, just a bit scary? We share three insights. 

  • You always bring the past with you
    Burning your bridges behind you, going out for a pack of cigarettes and never coming back: few people really want to begin with a clean slate, argues philosopher Marli Huijer. “We’re held back by our longing for continuity, for repetition,” she says. “Besides, it’s just an illusion that we can wipe out our past. After all, we look at the world through the lens of our experience.” According to Huijer, you’ll get further if you start something new in what already exists. “Someone who takes the initiative to do things differently in their work or relationship will bring about more change than someone who clumsily leaves to start something new somewhere else.”

How to deal with your thoughts

We tend to accept our thoughts as absolute truth. But thoughts are just thoughts; they are not facts. Below you can read four tips for dealing with your thoughts in a different way. 

  1. Do what Socrates did
    The philosopher Socrates took to the streets, talking to people about their prejudices and opinions, and picked holes in their arguments. According to philosopher and mindfulness trainer Viktoria Susovits, you can also conduct a Socratic dialogue with yourself: ‘Why do I think this?’ ‘How do I know that my thoughts are true?’ This is one way to view your thoughts from a distance.
  2. Get some breathing space
    Take the time to breathe in and out slowly, to live completely in the moment. Philosopher and Zen Buddhist Jan Bor put it so aptly in ‘Filosofie Magazine’: ‘Anyone who observes or listens while they think will mostly see and hear their own thoughts. Anyone who doesn’t do this is capable of being touched by life or by another person.’
  3. Set a reminder
    According to a well-versed quote, ‘It’s not hard to be mindful. It’s hard to remember to be mindful’. Choose a reminder that works for you: a gong or bell ringing on your phone, a quote on the wall. You could also schedule a regular time to do this. Every time you drink your cup of tea, take a shower or have a bad feeling, consciously return to the here and now.
  4. Hold a focus hour
    Make a deal with yourself. For example: I’m going to concentrate on work for an hour, and won’t let anything distract me. Each time a thought or impulse materializes (Just going to check Facebook quickly, or I wonder how my ex is doing), redirect your focus back to the present moment. You will really notice how many thoughts occur to you in an hour’s time, and that it is much more productive to not allow yourself to give in to temptation.

Text Otje van der Lelij Illustration Deborah van der Schaaf

Dirk and Eelke’s tiny house

What’s it like to live small? Tiny housers from all over the world tell us a bit more about the tiny lifestyle. Dirk and Eelke live in Canada in a campervan. 

What does your tiny house look like and where is it?
Dirk: “Three and a half years ago, Eelke and I, together with our three cats, moved to Canada. In Vancouver, we bought a 1987 HMC Motorhome, almost 11 meters in length, which we named ‘The Beast’. The exterior is still in its original form, but we renovated the interior. Due to time and money constraints, we did everything ourselves.

Originally, we had the campervan parked near Vancouver, on a friend’s land next to a Christmas tree farm where we saw lots of wild deer, coyotes, birds and rabbits. In May 2017, we started traveling around, for an indefinite period. We don’t really have a set plan; all we know is that we want to see a lot of Canada and the US. And to work every now and then, here and there, in order to be able to fund the trip. At the moment, we are in Canmore, Alberta, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. It’s a fantastic place and we’re going to spend winter here.”

What are your reasons for living small, and how did it come about?
“I’ve always had a big passion for tiny houses. Like tree huts, for example. Living in Vancouver is expensive and it just felt wrong to spend a large part of our income on rent. That’s why we always fantasized about buying an old, yellow school bus. In 2016, that idea gathered momentum, when Eelke and I suddenly had less income. Renovating a school bus would cost too much time, so we eventually chose a campervan. Within two months, we had refurbished everything and sold three quarters of our possessions through Craigslist or donated it to the Salvation Army. It feels good to own fewer things.”

What makes living in a tiny house so nice?

  • “The costs. The camper is bought, so we don’t have to pay any rent. Which means we don’t need to work so much to bring in a high income, and we can spend more money on fun things.”
  • “The stuff. It’s good to experience that you do not need much as a human being. A roof above your head and love are the main things; the rest is a luxury. If we do not use something every day, we get rid of it. Less stuff gives you more space in your mind.”
  • “Because we have a house on wheels, we can take it everywhere with us. We have already woken up in so many beautiful places. We are closer to nature and live outdoors a lot more.”
  • “Eelke and I have learned to be self-sufficient. We can easily spend a week without being connected to electricity and water. This makes you more aware of consumption.”


The joy of making lists

On your calendar or in a diary or on loose notes: making lists has many advantages. Here are just a few.

  • Peace of mind
    Suppose you have to write an important e-mail. Or you want to send a card to a friend. But right now you have no time for that. Even if you’re the forgetful type, chances are that this task will stay on your mind all day. “We often have many different projects on our plate,” says professional organizer Els Jacobs. “Work, family, home, social activities. A mix of big and small tasks that we mustn’t forget. Your mind gets overcrowded. With a to-do list, you avoid forgetting something. And what you write down, you can then let go. That’s why it’s the best way to create peace of mind.”

Pressing plants

The herbarium is making a comeback, and pressing and pasting plants has never been more fun. In our newest issue, four herbarium fanatics describe the joy of pressing flowers. One of them is the Dutch illustrator and artist Maartje van den Noort. 

Maartje: “It gives me such a peace to study a tiny bud or lead closely and then draw it. I’m not very precise – I’m not a botanical artist – but I love drawing what I see. Even if it’s not entirely realistic. As long as I can capture the mood. I think a lot of people reach that point now and then when everything becomes just too much. Maybe that’s why we feel such a need for nature; and it’s been proven too that it makes you feel calmer. It’s great if you have a little place somewhere or a book that entices your senses. Just working on something small and peaceful like the beauty of a flower pressing.”

  • You can find the article in Issue 17.
  • As an extra, we put a mini version of the Pocket Herbarium, made by Maartje van den Noort and Saskia de Valk, in this issue.

Text Jocelyn de Kwant Photography Gemma Hayden Blest

How do you start making something yourself?

How do you start making something yourself? And above all, how do you finish it? We share three insights.

  • A litte bit every day
    The best tip for modern times: Break what you want to do into small pieces. Or, start a 365-day project. Want to crochet a blanket from granny squares? It’s a lot easier when you commit to making one square every day. That’s how you stimulate your creativity. According to psychologist Leonard Martin, people function best when they regularly feel that they’re getting closer to their goal. Take artist Henri Jacobs, for example. Every day he does a drawing and he advises his art students to do the same. “It solves start-up problems,” he says in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. “Many artists just sit and wait for inspiration, while art is simply a matter of working. Start with one line and the rest will follow.”

Agnes’ pins

Big thanks to Hanke for compiling such a beautiful collection of pictures on Pinterest last month. In November, illustrator Agnes Loonstra takes over from her as Flow’s guest pinner. Agnes describes herself as a “loyal and slightly chaotic Pinterest fan”, which promises to be interesting! “Sometimes I see those incredibly organized Pinterest accounts, sorted by color or a specific theme, but I’m not like that at all,” says Agnes. “In fact, I just keep everything I find inspiring in a few categories. Illustrations, photos (and movie stills), prints/wallpaper, and color palettes: these are the most important to me.”

Inspiration for illustrating
Besides being an illustrator, Agnes is also a musician and singer, so she regularly also pins ideas for retro hairdos and styles for her a capella group, Charmony. Furthermore, her Pinterest board also includes future dream houses, ideas for life hacks, examples for creative projects, and her own work. When she starts drawing, she regularly spends about an hour on Pinterest first. “I often create a secret mood board for inspiration, and pin pictures and colors on it. It always helps me a great deal when I’m trying to think of what I want to draw.”

The most beautiful choices
Pinning for Flow this month is a great opportunity for Agnes to make a selection of her most beautiful pictures. On her personal page, she has already collected more than 3,600 pins, so there is plenty to choose from. “I plan inspire a great deal, sharing beautiful photos, colors, cool retro wallpapers, work by fellow illustrators, film tips, houses I like, and my own work. And of course, some cats too!”

  • You can follow Agnes’ Pinterest board here.
  • You can also see Agnes’ work in the new Flow Book for Paper Lovers, and of course on her website.
  • Fancy looking back at Hanke’s pins? You can admire them here.

Beautiful morning

More and more people—even the real night owls—seem to be changing their morning routine and starting their days earlier than before. So did Hans van der Laar, who works as a volunteer for the Dutch Society for Nature Conversation. 

He often leaves the house as soon as it starts to get light outside, so his morning ritual follows the rhythm of the seasons. From March to early July, he goes to Brunssummer heath in the south of the Netherlands to chart the birds there. “I see so many beautiful things during my morning walks on Brunssummer heath. When I’m in wet areas, I always look out for dragonflies. They hang upside down on the bushes and are often covered in dewdrops; it’s a spectacular sight when the sun rises. I have also seen the rare European honey buzzards with their young. These kinds of extraordinary encounters with nature can really shape my day, but just seeing a bird can make my day. Time spent out in nature makes me happy. I clear my head and am good to go again.”