As you start 2018, hopefully with a spring in your step and an eagerness to be back at your desk, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce you to Jocelyn de Kwant. A journalist and editor, she specialises in mindfulness and simple living – things we could all do with adding to our New Year's resolutions.
She has written for many magazines, including Flow, an international award-winning magazine about creativity and mindfulness. Jocelyn lives in Amsterdam with her family, vegetable garden, and VW van. Her new book, Creative Flow: A Year in My Mindful Life, published by Leaping Hare Press, will hit the shops in February.
We spent a calm five minutes chatting to Jocelyn about her new book and how she manages to lead a mindful, creative life.
First of all, tell us more about your new book, Creative Flow
We’re all living such hectic lives, sometimes we just need to take a step back and embrace the now. With this book, I challenge you to do one thing a day with your complete attention. Crafting something or drawing, writing, playing, or simply appreciating what is around you, right now. There are 365 prompts in this book, one for every day of the year.
What inspired the book? Did something happen to you personally?
I’ve been collecting insights and research about wellbeing ever since my burn-out, more than ten years ago. As a journalist, I was lucky to be able to research it for myself and for my work. But like everyone else, I keep finding it hard to take time to do things I like and to live in the moment. In my book, I’ve put a creative twist on everything that I’ve learned along the way.
Do you think we're busier than ever? Why do you think that is?
I think we are. We’ve been able to speed up almost every process, because of technology. But the time we’ve gained, we just use to create more work. For example, when I used to send work e-mails on a Sunday, it gave me a head start on Monday. But these days I already get my reply on a Sunday, with a new request for Monday. So there goes my head start. So we’re speeding up everything and we’re keeping each other busy in the process. We’re caught in a system where everything seems doable if we just run hard enough. Like little mice on a treadmill.
Do you have anyone to thank who sent you on this mindfulness journey?
I had been interested in Buddhism and had been meditating since my burn-out. But it was Irene Smit, one of my editors-in-chief at Flow magazine, where I’ve worked since 2008, who urged me to do a mindfulness course. Discovering mindfulness was a big aha-moment for me.
By being creative can we really help to beat stress?
Not per se; I know a lot of creatives who are stressed all the time, haha. But the difference is that they do it for a living and take on too much work. It’s being creative just for fun, without having a goal in mind, that helps reduce stress and enjoy the moment more. It’s also about just taking a step back and doing something for yourself. Some people do that by cycling or running.
Of the tasks you recommend in the book, what works best for you?
Playing with nature is my most favourite thing in the whole world. Being out in nature, drawing, investigating, re-connecting with my senses. I could write a whole book about just that. Maybe I will.
It's easy to forget to dedicate some time to ourselves. How can we make time?
Just block time, and take it seriously. Stop being online all the time, switch off your phone. It creates a lot of spare time. In the weekends I’m offline and that makes a big difference.
As well as mindfulness, you specialise in simple living. What three things can any of us do today to live simply and be happier?
Don’t be afraid to miss out on things. Do one thing at the time. Stop worrying about things you can’t change.
Does it sometimes take a drastic change in lifestyle to be more mindful, or can we find peace no matter what our life choices?
It doesn’t have to be a drastic change; it’s just paying attention to what you are doing. But I do think that anyone could benefit from an official mindfulness course with a qualified trainer. There is so much more to it than just reading a book about it. This book is just for fun and to play with.
Describe a typical day
My husband Robin and I cycle with our kids to their school, our dog running alongside. We drop off the kids, talk with some parents on the schoolyard. After that, we walk to our office, a classroom in an old renovated school, full of plants, a chalkboard and an old climbing frame. I make coffee and write, think, draw and walk the dog in between. We work until our kids come join us again. Then we cycle home and start cooking. It’s very cosy. I took up a fighting sport to balance out all the sweetness in my life.
You live in Amsterdam. Are people more mindful there?
I lived in London for a year when I worked for MTV and when I came back to Amsterdam the first thing I noticed that people seem more balanced and more relaxed over here. Maybe it’s because we cycle a lot instead of using public transport or a car.
Our beloved mayor, who died of cancer this year, called Amsterdam a sweet city, full of sweet people. I agree, but maybe that’s just because I want it to be so. It’s not because of the weed, only tourists smoke during the day. I’m not sure if they’re more mindful, but Dutch people in general are pretty straightforward and honest. No bullshit, what you see is what you get.
It’s being creative just for fun, without having a goal in mind, that helps reduce stress and enjoy the moment more.
Do you think the UK offers a good work-life balance? If not, how can we improve things?
I think work-life balance is something people struggle with all over the world. The first thing that helps, I think, is to stop worrying about status and money. It’s really not that important.
After you have enough to pay for food, a roof over your head and some clothes, more money doesn’t add to your happiness, research shows. Materialism is not the way to happiness. What the Buddhists have believed for ages, is pretty much backed up by science nowadays.
You new book has beautiful illustrations. How did you come to work with Sanny van Loon?
I found Sanny when I was curating new upcoming illustrators for a Flow magazine, when I was managing editor. We worked on a couple of beautiful projects together. And she has a sparkling personality and a great creative mind, so I really wanted to work with her on this book.
Finally, if you could recommend three things to become more mindful, what would they be?
Stop and breathe. Close your eyes for a minute, open them again and look around you with the eye of a beginner. And pay attention to your senses, they are great helpers in being mindful.