The Power of Relaxation

A couple of years ago, I went along to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak live at an event. To say I’m a huge fan is an understatement! I’ve devoured Liz’s books - everything from Eat Pray Love to the most recent City of Girls, and I was thrilled to even be in the same room as her.

Big Magic, her brilliant book about creativity, was recently published so I happily settled in, expecting to be immersed in a fascinating talk about the creative process. But, to my complete surprise, Liz had something else to speak to us about that day. It was a topic I hadn’t expected and had honestly never given much thought to.

She opened with this question: “What does it look like to be a relaxed woman?” … hey, what? After a moment's surprise, I played along and found that my mind immediately turned to images of saunas, hot stones and luxurious facials. It seems I’m not the only one to have this response to the combination of the words “relaxed” and “woman”. Liz’s own Google search returned a plethora of photos of women in day spas or meditating in exotic locations, an indication surely that this is pretty much what most people think of when they hear those words. While it’s true that many of us enjoy a pamper session from time to time, and there's nothing wrong with that, what this exercise revealed is how our society in general is disconnected from the idea of relaxation as part of our everyday lives.

(Image: Foraging for flowers is something that helps me get calm and relax)

It’s unsurprising really. We live in a culture that prioritises outcomes. Often that means we rush through our days, anxious to reach our goals and the success we hope will accompany them. While I absolutely believe that goals are important, listening to Liz that morning made me re-think my busy-busy, achievement-oriented approach. It made me think about the fact that how we experience the process of getting to our goals is so often overlooked or downplayed.

Being present, feeling content and enjoying a sense of calm should not be unusual. Relaxation needn’t be something we have to take a day off from our regular lives to experience. Valuing relaxation doesn’t mean we are lazy or slothful or that we’re shirking our responsibilities. And being relaxed doesn’t make anything worse. On the contrary, when we’re relaxed we’re more likely to think clearly, see more options, make well considered decisions and be more present for others. Anxiety, goal-obsession and the stress that comes with being hyper-busy all narrow our field of vision, restrict our understanding of what’s possible and put us at a disadvantage when making decisions or negotiating issues that profoundly affect our lives. It turns out that relaxation is not only good for us, it's also powerful. When we're relaxed we have more clarity and control.

Elizabeth finished her talk with an invitation: "Let’s give ourselves permission to relax". Those words have stuck with me. A reminder that it’s not just ok, but actually vital for me and the people I care about, to relax.

In my case, an easy way to get into a relaxed state is by being in touch with the natural world, and in particular through growing and working with flowers. The calming benefits of nature are well documented. Just looking at trees or plants can bring our heart rates down.

Creating a space and time for others to experience the relaxation that comes from being with nature is one of the reasons Winter Creek Flowers exists. Seeing our workshop participants unwind, have fun and (re)connect with their creativity is incredibly rewarding.

My hope today, despite everything going on in our lives right now, is that you also get to to relax and unwind and to experience more beauty and joy in your life through contact with nature, in whatever way works best for you.

If you're interested in our flower workshops you can find out more about our studio workshops here or sign up to join our online course here. We'd love to hear from you!

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