De-stressing with Bente (#3)

Learning to relax again: how do you manage to do that? Bente (23) is a freelance journalist and works as an online editor at Flow. Having experienced a near-burn-out, she’s finding her way to a life with less stress. And every Friday, she takes us with her on her journey to get there.

At the tender age of sixteen, I discovered that I did not have the same interests as my peers. I thought going out was stupid, and preferred to spend my time on the couch with a book. And although I sometimes found it difficult to accept, I don’t have any problems with it now. Currently, I’m busy crocheting a blanket (which my boyfriend finds hideous, but that doesn’t bother me), I try to set aside some time each day to draw, and I often go for a walk in the forest with an audio book as my companion. Twenty-three, you say? Sometimes I feel more like a granny, thanks to my hobbies. But like I said: I’m fine with that.

I’m also fine with my boyfriend thinking that the blanket-in-the-making is ugly; he’s my best friend and wants to do whatever he can to help me get over my near-burn-out. He comes up with this idea during a walk through the city.


24 hours of nature

Wandering through nature, from sunrise to sundown, with no plan, no telephone and no watch. That, in short, is a Muir Trek. Journalist Caroline Buijs went on one, and shares her experience.

We take turns to determine which way to go on our ramble, and the best part is that during a Muir Trek you don’t have to stay on the path. You’re actually supposed to go off the beaten track. John Muir never walked on paths. So, all of a sudden, I am walking right through the woods. It takes some getting used to, and I’m constantly trampling on blueberries, but apparently, they are quite resilient. We hold on to branches for each other, the same way you hold a door open for someone in the civilized world, to prevent them from snapping back into their faces.

Books to remember (6)

There are some books that will always stay with us. In this blog series, illustrators share a book that has made a big impression on them. Here, LA-based Carolyn Suzuki tells us which book she will never forget.

“As a child I was always drawing and making things, but I didn’t grow up in a particularly creative household—my parents weren’t artists and I never went to an art school. I used to be self-conscious about not having a proper artist’s pedigree, that I was somehow an impostor artist. For many years I assumed that thinking I wasn’t good enough came from that place. Of course, I’ve since learned that these are thoughts and feelings most artists experience, regardless of education. The desire to improve our craft and to keep making is an artist’s compulsion.”

“I read the book Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey a few years ago and still think of it often. It’s a meticulously researched book that compiles the daily rituals (work habits) of luminary artists, writers, composers, etc. When did Picasso begin his work day? What did Simone de Beauvoir have for breakfast before she dove into her writing? It might sound a bit basic, reading about what people ate for breakfast and when they broke for lunch, but I felt a strong connection to these artists who worked for themselves, in solitude. They didn’t wake up every morning feeling inspired, but they had the will and deep understanding that it is ultimately not about the work, it’s about showing up every day and making an attempt. Your practice is what makes you an artist. I try to honor this whenever I’m feeling particularly uninspired. It connects me to artists, be they alive or dead; we are all in this together, and I gain such great strength from that.”

Carolyn Suzuki loves to draw and paint. The patterns and illustrations she creates are both colorful and cheerful, and she hopes that she manages to capture her enthusiasm for life in her work.

Illustrations: Carolyn Suzuki, you can see more on her website.
Illustration homepage: Jennifer Orkin Lewis


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 the American doctor Andrew Weil. 

  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

Drawing in groups

They’re appearing all around the world: initiatives like ladies drawing night and social sketch. What is the fascination with drawing in groups?

Take a few creative women, some wine and nibbles, a table full of drawing and painting supplies, and a theme (and sometimes, even a collective drawing) and you’ve got all the ingredients you need for a Ladies Drawing Night. When the New York-based illustrators Rachael Cole, Julia Rothman and Leah Goren decided to get together one night a week to draw and paint together, they had no idea that this would lead to a book and a global following.

The aim of these drawing nights, during which they also paint and use stamping and collage techniques, was for them to try out new things, learn from each other and mostly just ‘let their hair down’, without a client or final result in their minds. But, as they write in their book, things didn’t quite work out that way. ‘We always pick our favorites and post them online to share. We hashtag the evening with #ladiesdrawingnight to collect all of our images from these nights. There has been 
a lot of positive response, not only to the artwork itself, but also to the idea of organized drawing sessions and shared creativity among women. Strangers started tagging their friends and commenting “we should do this” or “I wish I could come”. We realized that this ritual was something that really resonated with people of all ages, amateur artists to professionals.’

Thank you for sending illlustrations for Flow Tear Calender 2019

Thank you all for sending in such lovely illustrations for the Flow Tear Calendar 2019.We received more than 1,500 entries, and it was extremely difficult to choose which ones to use: they were all so great.

The selected illustrators have now been notified. If you haven’t heard from us by now, then unfortunately your illustration has not been chosen to be featured in our Tear Calendar. Please note that our decision is final and no correspondence regarding the results will be entered into. 

Photography ©Lina Trochez/Unsplash

Three minute breathing space

The ‘three minute breathing space’ is the kind of exercise you can do quickly in between the many other things in your busy day. We show you how to do it in three steps. 

As a metaphor for this exercise we are using the hourglass: Wide at the top, narrow in the middle and wide again at the bottom.

  1. The wide part at the top is your life at the beginning of this exercise: Busy with lots of things and your attention focused outward. The first minute is used to make a so-called weather report, reporting how things are inside you right now: Your thoughts, your body, your feelings and your mood. Only observe; do not change anything.
  2. In the second minute, as you are going toward the narrow part of the hourglass, you start by paying close attention to your body: Is there any tension anywhere? Where can you feel your breathing most clearly? (Nose, chest, stomach?) Next, focus your attention on that spot for a minute: You are now in the narrowest part of the hourglass.
  3. Slowly expand your attention by allowing your breathing to go through your whole body. At the end of the three minutes, you notice the place where you are sitting and the space around you, take it in with all your senses. When you open your eyes and continue with your life, you often feel different: more relaxed and alert, for example.

De-stressing with Bente (#2)

Learning to relax again: how do you manage to do that? Bente (23) is a freelance journalist and works as an online editor at Flow. Having experienced a near-burn-out, she’s finding her way to a life with less stress. And every Friday, she takes us with her on her journey to get there.

You know that rug that I told you about in my first blog post? Well, I like it. The thought of twenty minutes lying down and doing nothing seemed like an eon to me, but it was easier than I thought. I lay there every weekday, and I noticed that it really helped clear the mind.

But too many anxious thoughts still slipped through. My mind isn’t clear enough it seems, so I need to arm myself with heavier defenses in order to suppress my tendency to worry. And my therapist agrees with me.

Have I ever heard of ‘Worry Time’, she asks me.
“Worry what?” I answer.
“You schedule a half-hour of Worry Time into your day, and in that half hour you write all your worries down on a sheet of paper, and when you’re done, you tear it up.”
I look at her in amazement. I need to worry less, so how does setting aside specific time to worry help me?
“And what’s the use of that?” I ask.
“You give yourself time to focus on all your worrying thoughts,” she says. “And the rest of the day you try to worry as little as possible.”

Freshly pressed flowers

American Lindsay Buck is a landscape architect by profession and online herbarium cataloguer by passion.

Fascinated by the beauty of the wildflowers and plants in the meadows and forests near her home in Switzerland, Lindsay decided to start preserving and documenting the wonderful variety she found during her daily walks. Tapping into her creative side, she has pressed each specimen and produced an online herbarium that explores the interconnectedness between botanical science and art.

Text Julia Gorodecky Photography ©Valerie Ungerer/Unsplash

Four ways to stay curious

Being curious can enhance our lives. Here are four ways to do so. 

  • Deepen your knowledge, fifteen minutes a day
    Take a topic that intrigues and fascinates you, but which you know little or nothing about. An artist, an animal, a scientific discovery, a historic event, how to boil the perfect egg… whatever. Or commit to carefully reading at least one major article on the economics or science pages of the newspaper from beginning to end.
  • Ask questions
    If it is out of genuine interest, you can ask anything. It’s the best way to learn about someone or something. Be willing to ask ‘silly’ questions. Some questions seem so obvious that they don’t get asked anymore. We think we already know the answer. Pose them anyway, as it’s often the case that the answer is just that little different.

Discover what you truly want

Knowing what you want to do and becoming who you want to be. It sounds lovely, but how do you achieve it? Catelijne Elzes checks out the options.

Before I start learning and practicing, I need to find the answer to one question: How do you know that what you are doing is what you want? Dutch therapist, author and trainer Hannah Cuppen tells me the answer is simple. “Does it give you energy or take energy?” she says. “If it gives you energy, that’s where your soul is, your heart. It almost sounds too easy, but it’s so true.”

Naturally the key thing here is balance. There are always bound to be parts of your work and life that cost energy. Meetings, for example, or doing the grocery shopping for dinner with friends. But when the work being discussed at the meeting or the dinner itself, gives you energy, that’s not a problem. When the balance shifts to the energy-losing side, however, you’re probably doing something that doesn’t suit you well. It still might not be caused by the entire activity—it could be just one part. Maybe you have one particular client who takes too much energy, or maybe the group you do sports with is too hardcore for you.

An app that recognizes plants

A visit to any botanical garden is always such a delight: You can coo at all the stunning plants on display, openly feel jealous at their perfect condition and picturesque landscaping, and sneakily read the signs when you don’t know what you’re looking at. But what about when you’re in the great outdoors? Where are those obliging signs then?

Well thanks to PlantNet, they’re now in the palm of your hand. This nifty free app is a library of photos and information that has been uploaded by a large social network, and thanks to its in-built visualization software, it recognizes a whole plethora of plant species, enabling you snap a pic of the leaf, flower, fruit or bark of what you see and ‘read the sign’ to find out what you’re looking at.

Text Julia Gorodecky Photography ©Lina Trochez/Unsplash

De-stressing with Bente (#1)

Learning to relax again: how do you manage to do that? Bente (23) is a freelance journalist and works as an online editor at Flow. Having experienced a near-burn-out, she’s finding her way to a life with less stress. And every Friday, she takes us with her on her journey to get there.

“What’s on your floor at home?”
I thought this a bit of an odd question, and so I answered that I believed I have a wooden surface.
My respiratory therapist, who I was having my first appointment with based on a referral by my general practitioner, laughed and asked further.
“Is there anything soft on that wooden floor, a rug, for example? And do you perhaps have something you can put your legs on while you’re lying on this rug?”
“Yes, in my study.”
“Great. I want you to lie there.”
“Okay, and what should I do while on it?”
“Nothing. Just lie there. Preferably for twenty minutes; but for ten at least.”
I was shocked by that. I mean: how would I manage to do that, to lie still for twenty minutes?!
“Do I also get an instruction booklet on that?” I squeaked.

Time for a digital introduction. My name is Bente. I graduated last year, am now working as a freelance journalist, and spend a lot of my free time worrying. Last summer, I turned 23. During that same period, I had about twenty panic attacks. While my friends sunbathed by swimming pools in Spain or licked ice cream in Italy, I tried to focus on my breathing. Because I could no longer understand how something like normal breathing worked.

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 Ryder 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.

Pinning with Penelope

Thank you, Emily Isabella, for the beautiful images you pinned on the ‘Friends of Flow’ board in January. And now the baton is handed over to Penelope Dullaghan, who will be our guest pinner this month. Penelope collaborated with us for the Flow Book for Paper Lovers and you can also admire her work in Issue 22.

What can we expect this month?
“I use Pinterest as a means of collecting beautiful, inspiring images, and I like being able to share them. I particularly like to find different art forms, such as designs made from ceramics or wire. I tend to arrange my finds in color schemes, like a color palette. I also really like it when the collected images evoke a certain feeling.”

In her spare time, Penelope loves to enjoy coffee, making fires and going for walks. Her preferred subjects to draw are elements from nature, such as flowers, seed pods and leaves. Which means there’s a good chance we’ll see some of these up on our Pinterest board!

  • Penelope will be sharing her favorite images on the ‘Friends of Flow’ Pinterest board. You can follow her gallery here.
  • If you’d like to see the boards of Emily and our other previous guest pinners, visit our Pinterest page.
  • You can see more of Penelope’s work on her website, in the Flow Book for Paper Lovers and in Issue 22. You can also read more about Penelope in our blog here.

Illustration: Penelope Dullaghan

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.

Shooting with an analog camera

Old-school analog photography keeps you focused and can be surprising.

The American photographer Andrea Corrona Jenkins still regularly photographs with an analog camera. “Because the amount of pictures I can take with one film roll is limited, it helps me really think about what I want to photograph and how, where and why,” she says. This calm way of working with the camera helps feed my creativity, something I don’t always experience with digital photography.”

Vincent Mentzel agrees: “Seeing and photographing with a digital camera is fidgety: you push a button and then look down at your screen. When you take pictures with an analog camera, you look, click on a button and your gaze remains on your subject. They feel more comfortable and less like they’re just an object.”

  • More about old-school photography can be found in Issue 22.

Text Caroline Buijs Photography ©Laura Stolfi/Stocksy United

Working from home

Working from home may sound nice, but there are quite a few traps you can fall into. Journalist Jeannette Jonker explores how she and other work-from-homers avoid the pittfalls. 

California-based writer Alex Soojung-Kim Pang argues for working fewer hours and taking more breaks in his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. ‘When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: they organize their lives around their work, but not their days,’ he writes.

He looks at Charles Dickens who liked taking his dogs for 
a walk during the day, at Winston Churchill who would sleep halfway through his workday, and Roald Dahl who would deliberately stop writing when he was in the middle of a good sentence (because then he could start again the next day in a structured way).