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.

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).

Why walking daily is good for you

Here are just a few reasons why you should indulge in a brisk walk each day. 

  1. Research conducted by the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in France has found that walking just 15 minutes every day can lower the risk of early death by 22 percent.
  2. Studies by the University of Massachusetts in the US show that people who walk every day have 25 percent fewer colds.
  3. Psychologists at the University of Illinois in the US found that taking a daily 20-minute power walk for six weeks had effects comparable to a course of psychotherapy.
  4. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) proteins, which are released while walking, repair memory neurons in your brain and act as a ‘reset button’.
  5. Walking is a great way to enjoy quality one-on-one time with someone without the constant distractions of TVs, phones or computers.

Text Julia Gorodecky Photo ©Elke Karin Lugert/Unsplash

Books to remember (5)

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, illustrator Elizabeth Olwen tells us which book she will never forget.

“I never thought that I would get a tattoo. You see, the things that inspire me and that I find beautiful can differ vastly from year to year, so I just never thought that I could commit to an idea or a motif that I would want on my skin forever. That changed, however, when I read All About Love by Bell Hooks.

It’s not often that a book comes along and actually changes your life, but the first time I read this book by Bell Hooks, I felt like a changed person. I read it once, then I read it again, and again, and now anytime I’m feeling a little lost, I pick up this (worn and weathered) book and it provides me with such great comfort. It’s a way of looking at love that is different than anything I’d come across before it.

Sometimes I feel that, nowadays, we are often disconnected from each other. I might go so far as to say that we, as a culture, are suffering from a certain lovelessness. But this book gives me hope. It provides a new model for love, and it redefines what love truly means and encourages us to connect with ourselves, with our loved ones, and with our communities in more meaningful ways. It has changed the way I look at love, and has helped me to embrace a more meaningful love ethic in my own life.

What your intuition is telling you

Having an immediate insight into people, sensing exactly what you should do in a situation: intuition is an intangible thing. Journalist Mariska Jansen finds out how it works and how can develop it further. 

Intuition is knowing something subconsciously, sensing something without having given it any thought. It’s a compass for making decisions in your personal life. 
For example, deciding whether someone is trustworthy. It plays a role in picking the people you want to spend time with—people who then become your friends, or the one you fall in love with.

It can also influence less impactful choices: that sudden craving for orange juice, the desire to go out for a walk or, just the opposite, to stay indoors. Urges and intuition are automatic processes that have nothing to do with conscious logic. They play an important role in our lives, but are usually not valued properly because of 
the lack of rational argument.

Miracle Morning

Getting up at 6 a.m. in a fabulous mood: it seemed impossible to journalist Jocelyn de Kwant. But after reading the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, she feels fully equipped to try it. 

For the whole week, I manage to get up around the same time, just after 6 a.m. Brushing teeth and wearing my sports outfit turns out to be the perfect trick to get my morning motivation going. I usually also stand outdoors a bit to breath in the fresh air, something I already knew I enjoyed doing. I always start by doing yoga for twenty minutes and after that it’s different every day. I read features in the newspaper or write or draw in my notebook. And I make great smoothies.

Jana’s stop-motion videos

Whenever we publish a new Flow project, we post a 
fun little stop-motion animation about it on 
and social media. Meet Jana Kaminski, the animator and illustrator who creates them for us.

What do you do for Flow?
“I’ve been making GIFs and little stop-motion videos about Flow issues and special editions since spring last year. A GIF is like a five-second moving image, which is just enough to tease people into watching the longer version.”

The art of plants

Combining her passion for art with nature, Dutch designer Birgitt Olislagers creates botanical hoops with a difference. Rather than embroider her subjects, Olislagers paints them. She starts with watercolor ink on aquarelle paper and then transfers the works onto textile via a heat press before framing them in wooden hoops. Her favorite plant is the String of Pearls, and you can find her painted version, together with many other flora, on her website