A few years ago, I went along to hear the author 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 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.
Liz’s own Google search of the words “relaxed” and “woman” returned a plethora of photos of women in day spas or meditating in exotic locations so it seems this is pretty much what most people think of when they hear that combination of 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.
(article continues below...)
Prioritising relaxation in our lives doesn’t mean we are lazy or slothful or that we’re shirking our responsibilities. No, what it does is make us more capable to respond to the world around us and to contribute in a vital and constructive way. One thing is certain, being relaxed never makes anything worse!
On the contrary, science shows that 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"- and those words have stuck with me. They're a reminder that it’s not just ok, but actually vital for me and the people I care about, to relax.
Nature Can Help Us 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. Did you know that simply looking at trees or plants can bring our heart rates down?
Creating space and time for others to experience the relaxation that comes from being with nature is one of the reasons Winter Creek Flowers exists. To witness workshop participants relax as they unwind, have fun and (re)connect with their creativity is incredibly rewarding for me and it inspires every aspect of my business.
My hope, despite everything going on in our lives right now, is that you also get to relax and to experience more beauty, joy and calm in your life through contact with nature, whatever way works best for you.