Tropic meditations app

When you have trouble to getting some shut-eye, are in need of some downtime of need to refocus, take yourself off to the tropical coast of Sonus Island. Designed to help you relax, focus and sleep better, this app features guided meditations in different locations on the island, so you can listen to the birds in the forest, the ocean’s waves rolling on the shore, whales underwater, and more. And all without having to book time off from work, dish out loads of dosh or (over)pack a suitcase. Bliss.

Text Julia Gorodecky Photography Jimena/Unsplash.com

Rest the stress away

It can hit you like a ton of bricks, everything suddenly becomes too much and you find yourself heading for a burnout. Journalist Anneke Bots follows architect Lisa in her search for a solution and discovers some surprising insights.

The key to healing from a stress overload is first of all learning how to rest. After that, you can work on self-management, which will prevent you from reaching this state again. Resting isn’t easy if you feel super stressed at the smallest provocation and can’t find the ‘off’ button. “It’s quite a challenge to find out what helps you personally the most, but it’s generally a good starting point to accept that it’s okay that you’re not okay and not to feel guilty about that,” Carolien Hamming, director at the Chronic Stress Reversal Center, says.

“Rest up, and learn to simply do nothing without feeling embarrassed, but keep some structure in your day. Loaf about, but try not to worry a lot. Being out in fresh air, taking a walk, visiting a spa, getting a massage—those things usually do a world of good. But for people with a burnout, sports are actually not a good idea. When you’re physically active, your body creates extra stress hormones and that’s exactly what you don’t need.

To recover, the repair system in your body needs to be dominant. So it’s the opposite of what you’ve been doing in the previous years, when the activating stress system was dominant all that time. Seek out social support; talking to friends can 
be really good. But also remember, when you’re in the midst of a burnout even that can generate stress, so don’t do it then. Listen carefully to your body and see what works for you.”

“Take your body seriously when it tells you it’s tired, and take a nap,” adds doctor and burnout coach Gijs Schraa. “You shouldn’t worry you won’t be able to sleep at night afterwards. It’s a good thing to let your body get used to sleeping again. Rest is very important to build up stores of energy.” Schraa recommends you take a bit of distance in order to keep stress down to a healthy low level. “Make sure you think about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it on a regular basis and before things derail. Put your affairs in order and most importantly also plan moments of rest.”

  • Read the full story ‘Rest the stress away’ in Issue 26.

Text Anneke Bots Photography ©Blai Baules/Stocksy United

Podcast Hurry Slowly

Pushing back against the conventional wisdom that ‘busy is better’, Hurry Slowly is a podcast hosted by writer and editor Jocelyn K. Glei that features in-depth interviews with thinkers, artists and entrepreneurs to explore how we make smarter decisions, feel more comfortable taking risks and manage our attention more intelligently when we learn to take our time and live life at a more sustainable pace.

Text Julia Gorodecky Photography Nathaniel Sison/Unsplash.com

Correspondent in Brazil

What are the stories we aren’t hearing about on TV or in the news? In this series, correspondents write about their experiences in the countries where they are based. Here, Nina Jurna shares what it’s like to live in Rio’s Vidigal favela.

There didn’t seem to be an end in sight to the steep, narrow staircase you had to climb to get to our new house. Panting and perspiring, the movers lugged the boxes up the stairs. A refrigerator, couch and another load of boxes stood waiting in the burning sun at the bottom, ready for the next trip up. “They want more money,” warned Russo, the man with whom we had managed to get a good deal for our move, but only after considerable negotiation.

They knew beforehand that everything would have to be moved up the hill; the houses are situated high up in a slum like this, piled on top of each other and built against the many hillsides of Rio de Janeiro. “I hope they’ll want to stay,” he said as the movers grumpily started their third trip. “You’ll never get all your things up the hill on your own. Just pay 
a little bit extra and you won’t have to listen to their complaining anymore.”

 

Too little time?

How often do we feel like we have too little time? Even though our schedules are full and our to-do lists are long, the number of hours in the day remains the same. Journalist Mariska Jansen examines how the perception of time works, but mostly how we can manage to feel less rushed.

In the day-to-day merry-go-round of available hours, it’s all about the choices you make in the things you spend your time doing. The fact that you choose to go to your brother-in-law’s birthday party, for instance, but turn down the invitation to another party on the same night. It might also not be such a good idea to agree to meet up with old friends who you like yet don’t have so much in common with anymore.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the US-based author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, says that when it comes to creative work, we actually get much more done when we do focused work for a short period of time and then structure time off for rest and reflection. In an interview with American author and host of the Hurry Slowly podcast, Jocelyn K. Glei, Pang says that the greatest minds usually work a four-hour workday, and that they cultivate leisure so that their minds have time to process that focused work.

 

Critical voice while drawing

We all hear that critical voice that pops up while we are drawing, saying “I can’t do it” or, “This is worthless; throw it away.” Here’s how artist and creative mindfulness teacher Wendy Ann Greenhalgh suggests you respond to this voice.

  • As soon as it appears, stop drawing and rest your hand on the paper. Focus on what the pencil etc. feels like in your fingers, and concentrate on your breathing. This is the best way to deal with the thinking-mind, especially when it’s gone into criticizing mode.
  • Don’t dwell on the criticisms; it only feeds the thinking process. Do acknowledge the voice, however, and keep your attention focused on your hands and breath.
  • If you keep getting drawn into critical thinking, simply let the thoughts be there. Whenever they appear, just bring your focus back to your body and breath, and use these as mindful anchors.
  • These tips can be found in Issue 16.

Text Caroline Buijs Photography Rachael Gorjestani/Unsplash.com

Making paper plants

Corrie Beth Hogg (40) is an artist and designer from New York, US. Her new book Handmade Houseplants has just been released, and here she tells us a little more about how this special project came about.

How did your paper plants end up in this book?
“I was contacted by the publisher, Timber Press, which was a dream come true! I worked on it together with Christine Han, who is an amazing photographer, and it took about 2.5 years to make, from the moment of conception to the publish date. It includes 30 plant tutorials and over 250 photos, so it took a fair bit of time to create everything and plan out each photo.”

What drives you to make these paper plants and, consequently, this book?
“I’ve been a maker my whole life and I love sharing what I know and what I’ve learned. For several years now, I have been putting tutorials together online, so it was a natural step for me to make a book. It’s a nice bonus that everyone loves houseplants; and it means that this book is great for people who don’t have a green thumb and those who enjoy crafting.”

Do you have a favorite paper plant?
“My longtime favorite is the Rex Begonia Vine. I love the dark green and purple of the plant, with the delicate painted details. I think I am partial to it as I really love the real plant too. It is sculptural yet feminine, and I love that it can grow really big yet maintain its graceful gestures. In the paper version, you can achieve those same gestures and movement of the vines by simply bending the wires. The leaves are also beautiful all on their own and look lovely as a single specimen in a bud vase or to adorn a wrapped gift.”

Handmade Houseplants: Remarkably Realistic Plants You Can Make with Paper
by Corrie Beth Hogg, and photographs by Christine Han, Timber Press

  • To find out more about, and see more from, Corrie and her book, take a look on her website.

 

 

Can we make do with less, please?

During the financial crisis, it actually felt good to slow our lives down a little. But how easily we forget that spending more doesn’t make us happier and, all too soon, we’re back to wanting everything to be newer and bigger. Journalist Jocelyn de Kwant looks into why we put so much value on growth.

During the economic crisis, my husband and I were financially unable to move to a bigger house. And as it simply wasn’t possible, we made necessity a virtue and decided that our little house was actually good enough. I looked into the Tiny House Movement and found lots of great tips in video clips and blogs, and my husband enjoyed getting rid of as much of our stuff as he could.

We also started sharing items instead of buying them: We shared an electric drill with one neighbor, a cat carrier with another. It was pretty snug, living with our two children, but when we stopped acquiring so many possessions, it continued to be livable. It even gave us a certain sense of peace, and was also better for the environment to be less consumerist. And it fit perfectly in the ‘simplify movement’ that I noticed happening around me.

Renewed purchasing power

And now, a few years on, the crisis is over. We were able to sell our house profitably and move to a big home (by Amsterdam standards, where we live) with our own drill and own cat carrier. But when my husband started waxing poetic about the latest iPhone, which had just been released to great fanfare, I suddenly got a weird feeling in my stomach—a feeling of disgust. Are we back to square one?

The government constantly talks about ‘purchasing power’, and on TV the generation after mine is bragging about their new Rolexes and the money they’re earning. It felt so good to tighten our belts during the crisis, so why do we seem to be chasing what’s bigger, better and newer again? While reading the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Israeli historian, philosopher and author Yuval Noah Harari, the penny dropped. In one of the final chapters, Harari explains that growth is simply one of the foundations on which Western civilization is built.

Astrid & Irene: thriving on less

‘Is it okay if it’s a bit more?’ We used to hear that question a lot: at the grocer’s when we ordered a kilo of apples; at the store when we asked for 100 grams of our favorite candy; at the market when we wanted 500 grams of cheese. But in today’s world, that question rarely needs to be asked, mostly because we now shop in large supermarkets, serving ourselves and weighing our own goods.

Nevertheless, we’ve been thinking about that question quite a lot, because sometimes our lives seem to simply revolve around the idea of getting ‘a bit more’. We walked into that trap straight out of university: We started earning a bit more, added more to our wardrobes, went traveling a bit more and wanted a house that was a bit bigger every few years, collecting more and better furniture on the way. Until one day, the realization struck us that it wasn’t making us happy.

In fact, it was starting to be disappointing. What was the value in more? To keep up such a lifestyle, we had to work more, become ever more organized to fit everything into our homes, and say ‘no’ to so many fun things because we didn’t have time for them all. So we’ve started making more conscious decisions. We’ll never be true minimalists—we’re just too fond of some things for that, truth be told. But it’s such a liberating feeling to no longer feel the urge to spend Saturdays shopping in town.

It feels so much better to spend an afternoon walking in the woods. Flea markets and garage sales? Once a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning—but now we genuinely prefer to stay at home and read the newspaper from cover to cover. The only thing that still bothers us is how focusing on less does sometimes have a pretty dull feeling about it. The excitement of finding some hidden treasure buried in the piles at the flea market or coming home with bags of brand-new clothes is now missing.

Luckily, we’ve found other ways to experience that excitement. Irene is practicing lowering her expectations (yep, especially in love) and Astrid is practicing saying ‘sorry’ less often and just doing what her heart tells her to. This is causing all kinds of shifts in dynamics and funny situations, and we’d like more of that please!

  • Read more about thriving on less in Issue 26.

Illustration Amy Blackwell

Issue 26 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.

  • Less please
    It was good to slow our lives down a little during the financial crisis, but how easily we forget. All too soon, we’re wanting everything to be bigger, brighter and newer again. Journalist Jocelyn de Kwant looks into why.
  • Too little time
    How often do we lament that we have too little time, when in fact it’s because we want to do too much in one day? Is it possible to reduce that sense of constraint?
  • Back-to-basics yoga
    Relaxed poses and really letting your daily thoughts go: that’s slow yoga. No complicated, super-active postures; just taking things slow and – if necessary – snoozy.
  • Faces of time
    In his series, Faces of Century, Czech photographer Jan Langer has photographed centenarians in the same pose of a portrait taken 70 or 80 years earlier. By placing the two side by side, and adding a short biography, Langer depicts both the physical and psychological effects of aging.
  • Flow extras: Postcards of reading women and a mini booklet ‘creativity takes courage’.

Issue 26 is now available in selected bookstores and in our shop.

Flow Issue 26

How to deal with loss

Loss is an inevitable part of life. But when you actually experience it, as journalist Otje van der Lelij discovered, it can be difficult to know how to respond. How can we deal with mourning and overwhelming sadness?

“One of the most recent insights into the mourning process is that eighty percent of people actually recover from their loss very well,” says Paul Boelen, Dutch professor of clinical psychology at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. “We tend to think that people are crushed by loss, but it turns out it’s not actually as bad as that. How well someone deals with it has a lot to do with who has died: It’s harder to recover from the loss of a child than from the quiet death of a grandmother who has led a long and full life.”

It has also been shown that optimism has a protective function: People who feel confident they will be okay in the end actually are doing better a year after experiencing a loss. These are helpful scientific insights, but they don’t make the pain any less sharp or the loss any less great. What do you do in those moments when there is only sadness? How do you get out of that endless swamp of emotion that keeps sucking you in?

The Mitford sisters

Coming of age in the politically charged 1930s, these six aristocratic sisters were born and raised in a remote country house in England. Without much interference from their rather eccentric parents, each sister grew up to be remarkable in her own way. 

There is one precise moment that can be identified as the first time the Mitford sisters made their mark in the bigger world: In 1932, Diana – the family beauty – left her rich husband to become the highly visible mistress of married fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley. This was an act that, in those days, was absolutely unheard of. Yet Diana didn’t care at all about the commotion her choice caused inside and outside of her family.

Three small steps that lead to a big chance

Studies show that a few small steps can often lead to a big change. We share those little steps below. 

1. Show your gratitude
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the US see gratitude as the most important ingredient for general happiness. To benefit from this, all you need to do is write down three things you are grateful for every day. You will notice a difference after just two weeks.

The power of curiosity

Being curious can enhance our lives. 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

Going easy on yourself

Liking yourself more, or at least putting yourself down less, is possible to do. Journalist Catelijne Elzes learns how you can go easy on yourself through trial and error.

All in all, I think I’m a pretty friendly person. I’m open and even known to be funny. But if something goes wrong, if I make a mistake or clash with someone, this tough side of me comes out, this strict schoolteacher who disapproves and would love to rap me on the knuckles with her ruler. She’s not capable of saying anything nice. This is a shame, because it throws me off balance, and makes me unsure which way to turn or what to do. Besides, everyone makes mistakes, right?

American writer and associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin in the US Kristin Neff has been researching self-compassion (literally, having compassion for yourself) for years. One of her studies has shown that for an amazing 78 percent of people, it’s easier to be kind and understanding to someone other than themselves when they are experiencing difficulties. Only two percent of people have more compassion for themselves than for others and twenty percent show the same amount of compassion for themselves as they do for others.

Dutch mindfulness and self-compassion trainer Marlou Kleve sees this a lot during her training courses: people who are too hard on themselves if, in their eyes, they have failed. She feels it is time to fight back. According to Kleve, self-compassion is nothing more than being kind to yourself, particularly when you are going through something difficult, and supporting yourself when necessary.