Recommended Resources

Some people at my workshops have been asking for more information about books or web links on writing therapy.resources Gillie Bolton is really the best known expert in the field. Although she has now retired from leading workshops or doing coaching, her website still has much interesting information on it I can also recommend her book Writing Works: A Resource Handbook for Therapeutic Writing Workshops and Activities, eds Gillie Bolton, Victoria Field, and Kate Thompson (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006).

Lapidus, a UK organization which promotes writing for wellbeing, can be found by clicking here

For those who have heard me talk about how the brain forms neural pathways – either of positivity/kindness or negativity/pain – you can read something about it as part of a larger work on controlling back pain in: Back in Control by David Hanscom (Seattle: Vertus Press, 2012).

And, of course, do visit my Facebook page! I post interesting quotes, ideas, and news by and about authors and wellbeing. Click on the Facebook link on this page, or click here 

Radio Interview!

mentally soundI will be talking about Writing for Wellbeing next month on the ‘Mentally Sound!’ programme on Gravity Radio North East. It will be a live interview on Friday 10th June sometime between 2 and 4 pm. Gravity Radio supports the community of the North East with training, confidence building, art expression, & freedom of speech. Mentally Sound! is an informative & entertaining show with interviews, articles, comedy, poetry, & music around the theme of mental health.

Future of Libraries in our Hands

Today is National Library Day, which has set me thinking about how much time I spent in our public library when I was a child. Our library was a fairly large one. I looked at the huge number of shelves stocked full of books, and imagined that I would read every single book in that library. I didn’t know at the time that this was not humanly possible, nor did I realize that there were genres in there I wouldn’t want to read anyway. But it was a high goal which has shaped the rest of my life.

In my adulthood, I have made up for all those books I couldn’t own as a child – my home is chock-a-block with bookshelves burstinLit and Philg with books. I like best to buy at independent bookshops. But I still use libraries to get difficult-to-find titles, to try out a new author, or just to see what surprises I can find. My local library, Hexham, will order books from other libraries in Northumberland, including the splendid Northern Poetry Library at Morpeth. And I am a member of the amazing Lit and Phil Library in Newcastle with its host of hugely interesting titles, its splendid building, and unique ambience.

At this time when so many public libraries are threatened with closure or cutbacks, it is more important than ever to support our local libraries. Remember – the more people who check books out of the library, the more funding they will receive and the more likely the library will remain open. And the independent Lit and Phil Library depends on its membership fees. The future of libraries is in our own hands.

Waking Up with Gratitude

What if you woke up tomorrow with only those things for which you were consciously grateful today?

piglet gratitude

This question has given me considerable pause for thought. I can imagine waking up and finding I had nothing, not even my bed or the roof over my head — because I had been too busy to be mindful of all my blessings, or because I had been in a mind-space where I was thinking about what I didn’t have, or what I hoped to have, or what I used to have.

On the other hand, I can also imagine waking up to find that I have only a few things — and realizing that these are the most important things in my life, and that everything else is superfluous. That’s a powerful thought, to know how little I truly need for happiness. And, not so surprisingly, those few things probably wouldn’t comprise material possessions. Rather, they would be things like people I love, my cats, my health, sunshine, and laughter.

I’ve written previously on this blog about using Gratitude Lists as a wonderful Writing for Wellbeing activity. But now I think that starting the list with this question can give a whole new opportunity for awareness. Try it for a few days, and see whether your list changes. Perhaps some days you will be eager to write down everything you possibly can, because you wish to awake the next morning with all of that. Or it may be that on other days you will find that you focus on just a few things, and know that is enough. That all is right with the world when you understand what is really important to you. Give it a go! Write a Gratitude List beginning with the question:

What if I woke up tomorrow with only those things for which I am consciously grateful today?

Beauty in Everyday Life

I’ve quoted below something wonderful from Rainier Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. This piece could almost be a description of Rilke, Rainier MariaWriting for Wellbeing. In the activities we do, you come to a greater awareness of your inner self and the beauty of your own life. When you let the words inside you flow out, you find not only that there is no inner poverty, but rather a great richness within you. It’s true! So the idea of Writing for Wellbeing isn’t new – writers have always used writing as a means of self-exploration. Surely that’s what all good writing is. If you haven’t already read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, I highly recommend it.

‘…save yourself from these general themes and seek those which your own everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, passing thoughts and the belief in some sort of beauty – describe all these with loving, quiet, humble sincerity, and use, to express yourself, the things in your environment, the images from your dreams, and the object of your memory. … to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.’
– Rainier Maria Rilke

Expressive Writing Helps Cancer Patients

1 WellbeingResearchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston have found that expressive writing may have positive benefits for people being treated for cancer. Just four sessions of 30 minutes of expressive writing — about whatever was on their minds, releasing fears, expressing hopes — caused reduction in stress and actually helped reduce physical symptoms. And University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers have found that expressive writing improved sleep patterns in their patients.

This is good news for anyone facing the challenge of any illness, to know that expressive writing may help them cope with stress and physical discomfort. It is also gratifying to see that medical researchers take the use of writing as a form of therapy quite seriously, and are conducting studies to produce concrete results about the positive results of writing. And of course, you don’t need to be ill to know that ways to lower stress levels are always welcome.

Read more here in this article published by the American Holistic Health Association

How to Extend Life?

spread loveI love to follow Why My Cat Is Sad @MYSADCAT on Twitter, postings by Tom Cox about his beloved 19-year-old cat named The Bear. Of course every cat is special – but The Bear has a peculiarly wistful expression which has led Cox to create a series of amusing tweets about his cat. Recently Cox posted a blog about living with a deaf elderly cat.

I was particularly struck by the line ‘The fresh countryside air here in Devon is one of the things that I convince myself has extended his life, along with the rubs I give him in that spot on his chest he especially likes and the fact that I tell him “I love you, The Bear” every day.’ It is the part about telling his cat that he loves him, how it may have extended its life, that caught my attention. As a cat owner myself (two perfect cats from a rescue centre), I tell my cats multiple times every day that I love them. I am sure it contributes to their health and happiness. I know how good it makes me feel!

But this has led me to consider how often – or how seldom – we tell people that we love them. It is too easy to assume that ‘they know that I love them’, rather than speaking the words. Or perhaps we may find it easy to say so to people very close to us – our children or our partners – but we wouldn’t dream of saying ‘I love you’ to a friend. Or maybe we think it is enough just to sign an email or text with XX.

Just think about what Tom Cox has suggested – that telling a creature that he loves him has extended the life of that dear animal. Why not the same with humans? What if every time we said ‘I love you’ to someone, it gave them a reason to keep on living just a little bit longer than they might have? And what if they will keep on living with a feeling of being valued and important to someone else?

And what if every time we said ‘I love you’, it also gave us a reason to keep on living? Just from the sheer joy of sharing our good feelings with the wonderful people in our lives?

Still feel too shy to do it in person? Then why not write someone a letter? Not an email, not a text – but a handwritten letter on paper. Let them know why they are important to you, what they mean to you, how they inspire you. Tell them that you love them. After all, how will they really know if you don’t say so?

And maybe, just maybe – like The Bear – along with a little more happiness, we might be giving them just a little more life. Life and light.

Best Job in the World!

CNN best jobCNN recently asked people on Twitter to post a Tweet saying why their job was the Best Job in the World.  I was privileged for my Tweet to be selected as one of the top 10 Best Jobs in the World, out of all the Tweets posted worldwide. My Tweet ‘Risked much to do what I love: teaching writing as a way to foster calm, mindfulness, and to effect change. Just go for it!’ is featured on the CNN website. They noted ‘Some, like @writingforwellbeing, have combined multiple passions, like writing and self-help.’

Now, how good is that!

So here is confirmation of what I already knew – teaching Writing for Wellbeing is one of the best jobs in the world! And even though I earn my living doing it, it is difficult to think of it as a ‘job’. I think of it more as a vocation – something I am called to do because my teaching spreads positivity and helps people find their own inner wisdom. And I love doing it, I really do.

I am expanding the workshops I am leading, both in number and in geographical spread. I am working to organize workshops in libraries and other venues, and hope to find new wonderful places in the North West, West Yorkshire, and Scotland very soon. Maybe even beyond! If you would like a workshop in your area, or can recommend a venue, please do get in touch. Me, I just want to do more of what I love, and see the smiles of people opening up in self-awareness and joy!

What People are Saying about the Workshops

group writingThere is one particular piece of writing which participants do at my Writing for Wellbeing workshops which is particularly helpful to me — and that is the feedback sheet they complete at the end of the session! It is wonderful to read how people leave the sessions feeling so positive, and to see what are their favorite activities. It is a great boost to me to know that the benefits of Writing for Wellbeing are not just real and true, but are immediate. Thank you to everyone who has participated in the workshops, and for all your helpful feedback. You make it all worthwhile.

I’d thought I’d share with you some of the comments people have made in recent workshops:

‘Everything was fantastic. It was nice that there was no pressure to share stories, no paperwork… just a simple notepad and pen.’

‘All so helpful, unexpected and wonderful.’

‘I really rediscovered the power of writing and will take some of the exercises home.’

‘The journey was really interesting. This was the first workshop I had ever done and I think it has opened a door for me.’

‘Well structured, well led, and thoroughly enjoyable.’

‘The whole range of activities was a very freeing experience. I liked the variation.’

‘I liked the help at the beginning to overcome the “blank page” phobia.’

‘Felt welcomed and comfortable within the group and exercises.’

‘It encouraged me to free up my writing and not get too hung up on the technicalities.’

‘It helped me feel and experience the joy/power of writing without a particular immediate aim.’

‘It sparked my imagination and felt very freeing.’

‘You managed the time really well and I liked how there was some discussion, but this did not dominate and you kept the emphasis on writing.’

‘The visualization very calming and meditative. As my first visit to a writing workshop, I found it very accessible and non-threatening. A very enjoyable experience, which was very positive in its approach and content.’

‘Made me realize how easy it is to get the writing going.’

‘I enjoyed all the activities and found them all helpful in their own way. I felt comfortable, relaxed and able to take part in all the activities.’

The Self-Exploration of Writing

writing-groupThe number of hits on my website this past week has been astounding — partly due, no doubt, to the good people at New Writing North including Writing for Wellbeing in their recent newsletter. Many thanks to them! But the hits are not all about a bit of publicity. Rather, they happen because people are really interested in using writing for self-exploration. Why is this so?

Well, I think it is a matter of seeking balance between useful guidance and having your own control about what you do with that direction. Writing for Wellbeing is special because the guided activities provide the means for exploration without telling you what you ought to think, feel, or experience. It provides a nurturing and non-judgemental framework which allows you to find your own answers, release inner obstacles which are limiting you, open up to creative inspiration, and access your innate stillness and calm. In short, it helps you find that you already know everything you need to experience harmony, while effecting the growth and change you aspire to.

So each person’s experience of Writing for Wellbeing is unique. In the group sessions and workshops, you have the advantage of the shared energy of other people writing along with you — while still retaining your own personal space. Remember that you never have to read aloud anything you have written. In the one-to-one sessions, we can customize your sessions to address particular issues or objectives.

Sound like a lot of great possibilities? Yes!

Thanks to everyone who is visiting this website, for your emails, and bookings for sessions at the Westoe Practice and workshops. It is exciting to be part of helping you on your journey of exploration.