This month I have followed on from last month and done a bit of a ‘cheat’ again. Sort of. For Hope Street Cards Book Club, I haven’t really read a book related to mental illness. It’s more to do with thinking about and possibly improving our wellbeing. And it’s not really a book. It’s technically a magazine - flow.
I’m a massive lover of this magazine. It combines so many of my favourite things.
But one of the most lovely things about this magazine, is that it reminds me of the person who introduced me to it.
During my last episode of illness, on my second last admission into hospital a really wonderful person came into my life. And they did it in a beautiful way. It was at lunch time. I generally hated meal times in hospital. Meal times seemed to amplify my feelings of loneliness, gloominess and anxiety. I never really knew who to sit with. I was anxious about making small talk with anyone. I was usually feeling too miserable to try and make friends. Or be friendly. In general, I dreaded going to the dining room and tried to schedule my food times in accordance with full tactical social avoidance techniques.
But this one day I was at the salad bar, trying to avoid all human connection in my despair and this bright, gregarious, rainbow of a soul bustled over and told me that they’d noticed me around the joint, loved my glasses and thought that we should be friends. Immediately I could just tell that connection was going to be straightforward and easy. My loneliness and anxiety reduced exponentially. And before I had even said a word, this human had a piece of my heart. And over the past few years that piece has only continued to grow.
This human is an exceptional friend but has also opened up my world in a myriad of ways. One of the smallest of which is that they introduced me to my favouritest all-time magazine.
flow is a Dutch magazine. Which means it can be hard to get your hands on when you live in a regional coastal town (hot tip – it is pretty consistently stocked at the Gold Coast airport!). The English version comes out quarterly (which is definitely not often enough). And it is marketed as a “magazine for paper lovers” (hello Sam’s obsession with stationery!).
Content-wise flow is all about positive psychology, mindfulness, creativity and the beauty of imperfection. Each edition is structured into four sections – feel connected, live mindfully, spoil yourself and simplify your life. The pages are filled with lovely illustrations and in each issue there is a gift made of much-loved paper. The magazine itself is printed on different types of paper.
On a recent trip to Sydney I managed to find myself a very special edition of the magazine – the flow mindfulness workbook. Smaller in size than the magazine, but thicker in pages, heavier in content and much, much more activity based. This is flow’s second book in mindfulness and the purpose is to help us get working on mindfulness on our own.
The workbook is then structured into six sections or themes:
- why do we take our thoughts so seriously?
- why do we always feel hurried?
- why can’t we be a little kinder to ourselves?
- why do we find things so scary?
- why must we always be so happy?
- why are we always busy “doing”? Can’t we just be?
Full disclosure. I read my entire way through the book (that is, I read all the articles) before completing the activities. Because I was just so excited by the content! And I was on the plane. But I am now working through the activities and mindfulness strategies.
For anyone who hasn’t yet engaged in the mindfulness phenomenon*, or who has only given mindfulness a go through a colouring book, I would highly recommend checking this workbook out.
Or if the book sounds a bit much, look out for the magazine next time you visit the airport newsagent for some high altitude reading. I doubt you will regret it.
I find that after I have indulged in a session of reading Flow it gives me the most comforting of feels. Like when you have just gotten out of a warm bubble bath. Or like the smell of freshly mown grass on a spring day. Or when you have had a really long talk with a really old friend that you haven’t connected with in a really long time. Or like when you’re in hospital and feeling really lonely and then a magical person comes along and steals a piece of your heart and you know you’re going to be friends with them for ages to come.
*Which I don’t think is really a phenomenon or anything new. Psychologists have been using and applying mindfulness techniques in therapy since the 1970s. But the theories and insights behind it are more than 5000 years old.