Two tips to help you loaf more

We tend to demand a lot of ourselves, and often don’t allow enough time to just kick back and do nothing. Yet doing so is the ideal way to keep your mind in check and recharge your batteries. We share two tips to help you loaf more.

  • Make it smaller
    Dutch psychologist Patty van Ziel uses the words ‘smaller’ and ‘less’ to give yourself more space to loaf around, to slow down. “Our world has become so big, we want to know a lot of things and in addition to that, we also already know a lot of things,” she says. “The trick is to make it all a bit smaller. I think it is important to ask yourself every day: Why am I doing what I am doing today? If you decide to go to the theater on your day off, first ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Does it make me happier? Or is it just because I want to be able to talk about the performance? How important is that for me, exactly? And are the people with whom I will talk about it that important to me? So, be critical about why you do the things you do.”

The positive effects of slow reading

Sometimes it seems hard to pay proper attention to what we read. ‘Slow reading’ can help you focus on the words in front of you. 

Meg Williams, a literature researcher from New Zealand, believes that a return to slow reading makes people more balanced and happier, and she’s not the only one who feels this. According to a study done at the University of Sussex, UK, in 2009, reading is one of the simplest ways to relax your mind and body. Even as soon as six minutes into reading a novel, your heartbeat goes down and your muscles relax. Reading has even more effect than listening to music, drinking tea or taking a walk.

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.

Rachel Hazell’s BookLove e-course

Are you a fan of paper, beautiful letters, small folding projects and bookbinding? Then we recommend you to take a look at the work of bookbinder Rachel Hazell from Edinburgh.

You may well have already come across Rachel and her work in Issue 18, or perhaps already attended one of her workshops, which she has been giving around the world for more than twenty years now. But she also gives BookLove e-courses online via her website, which you can follow from the comfort of your own home.

 

3 tips for taking the first step

It’s better to do a little bit at a time, rather than everything at once. We share three tips for taking the first step in this. 

Pleasure Hormone
One advantage is that each time we finish a task we are rewarded by 
a dose of dopamine. Each step we complete feels like a triumph and will trigger this ‘pleasure hormone’. This has an important evolutionary purpose: It gives us energy and the motivation to keep going. When our ancestors, for example, went looking for a water source, the success of their quest would give them successive hits of dopamine—one for each clue they found pointing to a water source, 
for detecting the sound of water streaming, and so on.

 

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

De-stressing with Bente (#16)

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.

Since starting my journey to a less stressful life last August, I’ve had an overwhelming desire to start yoga. For months I had felt that my head and body were acting separately from each other and that the communication between the two had broken a long time ago. The promise of yoga—coming back into contact with your body—appealed to me enormously.

But when the desire first hit me, I wasn’t ready to follow it through. I couldn’t even stop for ten minutes without hyperventilating, let alone listen to my breathing for an hour. But now, ten months and lots of ups-and-downs down the line, I felt ready to take the plunge. So, on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself at the local yoga studio for an introductory lesson.

It’s only a 400-meters walk from my home. Yet, with every step I took, I felt my breath accelerate. My panic levels increased as soon as I stepped across the threshold of the studio. While the rest of the group sipped on pre-prepared tea, I thought of ways to flee. But I stayed. It hit me that I will always feel tense when trying new things, and that running away is not necessarily the best option. And with that in mind, I walked straight into the hall and sat down.

 

Naomi Bulger about her love for snail mail

Naomi Bulger is a writer and illustrator and lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, two children and a fat rescue cat. She is a big fan of snail mail.

What do you like about snail mail?
“Writing a letter feels completely different 
to writing an email. It forces you to slow down and be more mindful of what you are saying. Snail mail is where my two joys of writing and painting converge. I like to paint illustrations and incorporate the addresses into the designs to make each envelope bright, cheerful and something unique that will make the recipient—and hopefully also the mailman—happy.”

Have you always written letters?
“I had pen pals when I was growing up 
but I wasn’t a prolific letter writer. I rediscovered letters about six or seven years ago when, on a whim, I started offering to send letters to strangers who read my blog. They would write back, and I became hooked by the whole process. It’s so personal, holding something in your hands that they first held, and that has traveled—sometimes—thousands of kilometers to reach you.”

What inspires you?
“Family, art and nature. Motherhood is beautiful, inspiring, exhausting and chaotic; it has taught me to appreciate the meaning behind the small things. I try to capture those moments in my paintings: half-eaten breakfasts, a cup of steaming hot tea, or a cat asleep on a sofa. I’m on a bit of a personal journey to slow down and be more mindful in the way I live my life. There’s not a lot I can do about how busy I am or how full our schedule is, but I can change the way I go through my busy days to act with more love for the people around me, the world in which I live, and of course myself.”

  • You can find out more about Naomi Bulger and her work on her website.

Text Jeannette Jonker Photography Naomi Bulger

 

Making your own cyanotype

Would you like to make your own cyanotype? Wenda Torenbosh, a stylist from The Netherlands, explains how to do it in 6 simple steps. 

You will need
A cyanotype kit (including two small bottles of chemicals (A1 and B), measuring cylinder, stirrer, foam brush and mixing cup) • water • dried flowers • sheets of watercolor paper • wooden board • glass plate (the last three in size: A2/420×594 mm/approx. ANSI C)

You also need three spaces

  • A place where no direct daylight will fall on your paper (it’s not necessary to have a completely dark room like for photography).
  • Somewhere with sunshine: preferably outdoors during a bright, sunny day. That’s when the UV-sensitive paper works best and you’ll get a beautiful dark blue print.
  • A large sink.

Five easy plants

If you want to treat your interior and yourself to some greenery but haven’t quite got the green thumbs to do so, then pick one of these easy plants. They hardly need any attention, and won’t hate you for forgetting to water them.

  • Cactus: A classic for those lacking gardening skills.
  • Sanseveria: Gives off lots of oxygen; great for the bedroom.
  • Aloe vera: Grows wild in tropical climates but also succesfully indoors as a potted plant.
  • Crassula: Loves light; only needs water when the soil is dry.
  • Orchid: Water once a week, and it’s happy enough.

Text Julia Gorodecky Photography Thimo van Leeuwen

Complaining less

We all grumble and complain from time to time, but have you ever wondered what would happen if you just stopped? Ineke van Lier gave it a try.

It sounds like a good idea: Looking at everything you do have, do know and can do. I made up my own little trick for doing this. I’d ask myself what was making me feel the most fed up. Those are the things I complain about. Next I’d ask myself what I need, and then I would list all the things I needed at that moment and for which I longed. It was wonderful. My complaint-free existence was off to a flying start. I was in bed with the flu, feeling content (done with feeling weak, and grateful that my body was giving out these signals).

Shopping became a lot more fun (I no longer looked upon it as a boring chore, but celebrated the wealth of available foodstuffs instead). Cycling through an icy rain shower, I told myself how lucky I was that I would soon be in my warm home taking a hot bath. I was leading the same life, but looking at it from a new perspective. Quitting my complaining habit gave me more self-confidence. I no longer felt like a victim of myself or of circumstances, because I was the one deciding what to do and how to feel. This gave me a lot more peace of mind.

Overpowering enthusiasm

But then I became a little over-enthusiastic. Like an ex-smoker who can’t stand a whiff of smoke anywhere, I couldn’t tolerate anyone else complaining. I was quick to condemn any complaining on my own part, and just as quick to judge anyone else. ‘I can’t complain anymore, so you can’t either’ was my new mantra. A friend who was feeling down and had a headache could no longer count on my sympathy. “Focus on something positive; take a pill,” was my response. I took her position that life was sometimes hard and surely you were allowed to say so as an illustration of how attached she had become to complaining.

‘Dump your garbage on your own sidewalk,’ I thought, stubbornly. I really believed I was doing the right thing. Seneca, after all, said we should avoid negative people who are always experiencing difficulty, because they are the enemy of our inner peace. But in my case, the ‘negative person’ happened to be a dear friend of mine, someone who was always there for me. When she, in turn, asked how I was doing, an awkward silence fell between us. How could I talk about my day, which also wasn’t going very well, without complaining?

The beauty of stumbling

As much as we prefer to forget those moments when we mess up, reflecting on them can be very good for us and insightful. Journalist Caroline Buijs looks at the benefits of stumbling. 

Stumbling and falling are not only part of childhood – they are part of adulthood, too, though not always in the literal sense. Stumbling also means not passing an exam, having your heart broken or discovering that a new project you’ve taken on just isn’t working out. It’s choosing a university major but finding out it doesn’t suit you after you’ve started, or enrolling in an art class but not going back after the first two lessons because the teacher intimidates you.

Stumbling can be speaking to a large audience and watching people’s attention drift, or snapping at your children in the morning just before they leave for school and then feeling bad about it all day. Stumbling is simply part of daily life, and with a bit of luck you learn something from it, you learn what is the wrong way to do something.

De-stressing with Bente (#15)

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.

How do you know when you are better again? I asked my therapist that question last August, just a few weeks into my sessions with her. Is there a Eureka! moment or is it a very slow process? My therapist said it could take six months for me to feel comfortable in my own body again. A year (or two) was also not inconceivable. There and then, I decided – for the first time in my life – to simply see what would happen; I would not count the days. Or months.

By the end of December, my therapist already felt I had reached that point. “We are entering phase two,” she said one Wednesday morning when I entered her room. She thought I had progressed well, and she was right about that.

I wasn’t hyperventilating my way through daily life anymore, I hardly had any panic attacks and I could travel a distance from home without constantly longing for a safe haven. While in the beginning, I couldn’t even lie still for ten minutes, I was now able to lay down for an hour without thinking of anything else but my breathing or big toe (the body scan is favorite of mine). But to say that I was ready for a new phase in my recovery? For me, it still felt like I should be in phase one.

 

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

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 British 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.”

Yelena on Pinterest

In May, our Pinterest board was a true explosion of color. Thanks to Brittany from The House that Lars Built for all those beautiful pictures. This month, it’s the turn of illustrator Yelena Bryksenkova, who will be our guest pinner throughout June. We’re huge fans of Yelena’s work here at Flow, and you’ll regularly find her illustrations in our magazines and Specials, such as the current issue (#24) of Flow Magazine (‘Thoughts on being Alone’), Issue 19 (in which she illustrated her ‘Happiest Things’), Flow Book for Paper Lovers and our Big Book of Drawing.

Yelena is currently illustrating a guide to words of positivity and joy, and is also working on some personal paintings. “Pinterest is a great tool for collecting inspiration for those paintings, especially color palettes and vintage patterns that I would like to use in my work. I also use secret boards for every new big project that I work on, where I collect images of people, clothing, interiors and anything else that will come in handy. Gathering information is one of my favorite parts in preparing to work on something new, and pinning is the perfect way to have all of the visual research in one place.”

  • During the month of June, Yelena will be sharing her favorite pictures on Pinterest. You can follow the Pinterest board here.
  • You can still admire Brittany’s pins and those from our other previous guest pinners on our Pinterest page.
  • If you want to see more from Yelena Bryksenkova, you can do so on her website.

A little more freedom

Tied down by your job, a mortgage and a busy calendar? More and more people are choosing a less confining life. Journalist Otje van der Leij looks into ways to enjoy a little more freedom in life.

According to trendwatcher Adjiedj Bakas, this is what the future will look like; economists at Oxford University, UK, are predicting that, within the next 20 years, 47 percent of current professions will disappear. Robots and computers will be carrying out more and more of the work we humans currently do.

Less jobs, more sharing

What’s more, the world population is going to reach nine billion. In other words: There will be less work and it’ll be shared across a greater number of people. “We’ll be seeing a society with two or three different speeds,” Bakas says. “People at the highest speed—with a special talent—will continue to work full-time. Other people will work for money two or three days per week, and patch together the rest of what they need by doing odd jobs, and sharing and trading.”

The nice thing about this development is that we can do what we like with the time we’ll have left over.  There is more freedom. We can play music, teach, do charity work or take care of the children. “Life won’t necessarily be easier, but it will be freer,” says Bakas. “It’s already changing. When the industrial revolution began, we were working weeks of 70 hours in countries like the Netherlands, the US and Japan. Some two hundred years on, it’s been reduced to thirty-five hours, and it’s going to become even less now.”

 

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.