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The Power of Words

power of words

Words have Power.

Words are powerful, we all know it’s true. Whether it is an unkind word said to a child on a playground that changes the way they see them-self forever, an advertising campaign that makes you rush out and but the latest product, or a witches spell in a storybook.

Words are perhaps the most powerful thing in the world. They are how we communicate, how we calm someone down and how we let others know what we need. They are also how we can be manipulated and upset. Truly powerful.

Words start wars, seal fates, declare love for another under the desk at school and keep loved ones informed about what we are doing.

It is hard to even imagine a world where words hadn’t evolved.

There are times when words just a means of passing on information; when we ask someone to pass us the milk, or to close the door. Even then though they have purpose, and we would struggle to make ourselves understood without them.

 

Fascination with words

I have always been fascinated by words. I love finding new and interesting words like: 

novalunosis which is the state of wonderment you feel while gazing at the stars.

eudaimonia the state of being happy, healthy and prosperous or

querencia the place where you are your most authentic self, from where your strength is drawn.

 

Aren’t they wonderful words? I have a whole book full of magical words I have found over the years.

Words aren’t just a way of expressing ourselves and making ourselves understood though. They carry an energy and can actually change the state of things. 

The work of Dr Emoto

Dr Masaru Emoto is a Japanese business man who has reseached the power of words on water. He photographs the water molecules and how they change shape depending on the emotion they have had spoken to them and directed at them. The shapes vary greatly. It is truly fascinating.

When we then consider the fact that our body is 60% water and when we, or other people, direct emotions at that water all day every day, that is really cause to think.

What if every time we say something unkind to ourselves, or someone says something hurtful to us, the molecular structure of the water in our body changes? What impact could that be having on us?

change

The power of a name

The idea that knowing the name of something or someone gives us power over it, is found in almost all the major world religious teachings, as well as folklore and oral traditions. We see it perhaps most obviously in the story of Rumpestiltskin. At the end of the story Rumpelstiltskin declares that the miller’s daughter must discover his name if she is to keep her baby. He clearly guards his name carefully and doesn’t want anyone to discover it! 

The name someone is given is important too, isn’t it? I can remember when my children were born realising that they did or didn’t suit the name we had chosen for them. Certain personalities seem to come attached to certain names. 

I remember when I first began reading widely, realising that if there was a Katherine, Kate or Katy in a book they were feisty, stubborn and often trouble. While my sister, Jen’s namesakes were always meek and mild mannered. I don’t think I need to fill in any gaps for you there!

Spell

Spelling

It would be remiss of me not to mention the notion of spells while talking about the power of words. The origin of the word spell in this context is from the German spel, which refers to talk, gossip or storytelling, it is the same origin as gospel.

Years ago people spoke words, or spells, over objects to protect them and keep them safe. It became associated with superstition and magic much later, around the 16th Century. 

Many people, magical or not, still use the concept of spoken spells for protection. Without wishing to upset anyone, it is effectively prayer.

Whatever context you are considering, words are powerful things. Whether spoken or written words are how we express ourselves, how we identify ourselves, they allow us to pass on knowledge and wisdom through generations. Without words we would have no books, no films, no poems, no social media. We would have no way of sharing our inner world with others at all. 

Often when we experience challenges the most powerful thing to do is to share it with someone, equally the first thing we want to do when we have successes is to shout it from the rooftops. We couldn’t do either of those things without words. 

The written word

What about those things that we know we need to get off our chest but we don’t want anyone else to know about though? We don’t want to tell anyone about those things. 

That’s when journaling and writing things down is important. We can write things down and never share them with a soul, but still get the same healing benefits from having discussed it with another. We often find comfort in the words that appear on the page. They heal us and help us to forgive ourselves or move on from whatever pain we are experiencing. 

Cosy change

Journaling, or writing down our thoughts and feelings without judgement, can help us heal emotionally and physically from challenging times. Research shows that journaling can even heal a wound more quickly. There really is nothing more powerful than words. 

Do you use the power of words to enrich your life? 

Perhaps you keep a diary, or enjoy reading. Maybe the thing you love most is a good chat with your best friend. However you use words, they really are powerful, it is important to chose them wisely and with kindness, especially when talking to ourselves. 

Good mental health as a way of life

Mental health

Mental health crisis

I firmly believe we are heading for a mental health crisis. I know this isn’t my usual positive message, but it is a painful truth. The whole world has been living in a state of fight or flight for over two years now and all we are doing is kicking the can down the road. At some point it is going to catch up with us. 

I have been in a state of crisis with my mental health. I have woken up in tears and felt unable to get out of bed. I have been so depressed I couldn’t sleep and felt numb all the time. 

It is because of this experience that I then went out and found ways to stay mentally healthy. For me it was a string of circumstances that caused me to feel that way, so it was relatively easy to remove the culprits.

 

I made myself promises like:

  • I will never stay in a job that makes me feel like that again
  • I will never allow a man to treat me like that again
  • I will always speak to someone if I start to feel like that 

It was a few more years before the penny dropped that I needed to do more than just walk away from stress in order to be mentally healthy.

At that point I started journaling again, I made a conscious effort to meditate every day, not just when I thought about it, and most importantly, for me, I realised that my diet had a huge impact on my mental health as well as my physical health. 

It does make me a little sad though because when I look at my family, friends and clients, the ones who actively look after their mental health are all the ones who have been at this extreme point. Only then have they realised that they needed to do things to care for their mental wellbeing. 

 

My ever growing toolkit

Of course over the years I have added countless other tools to my mental health toolkit; journal therapy, Reiki, crystals, tree spirit healing, mindfulness practices, breathing techniques… There are so many things we can do to support out mental wellbeing.

Do you know what still lifts me faster than anything else when I feel myself slipping though? 

Singing. 

change

I love music and putting on some uplifting music and having a good sing, even dancing round my office or kitchen, is guaranteed to lift my mood and energise me. No training needed. 

 

Three easy things I do to support my mental health

Singing is actually scientifically proven to lift help with anxiety, I wrote about it a little while ago. When we sing we alter our breathing and it works as effectively as any breathing technique.

Another thing which instantly makes me feel better is sunshine. Unfortunately that is much harder to regulate but getting outside whatever the weather always helps. 

The last, and most joyous thing which helps is seeing my loved ones. Whether it is a catch up with a good friend or a family outing. Seeing my loved ones and having a good chat and a hug is guaranteed to make me feel as though everything is going to be ok.

 

Top 5 things anyone can do to support their mental health

Imperfect change
  1. Get enough sleep – while we sleep our body processes stress so when we don’t get enough sleep we wake with yesterdays stress still in our system.

  2. Eat well – our diet doesn’t just affect our physical health. Fatty foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine can all have a big impact on our mental health.
  3. Get enough exercise – exercise doesn’t just improve our physical health. Movement is one of the only ways our body can process all the chemicals we produce when we are stressed. Get moving!
  4.  Write – just grab a pen and a scrap of paper and write out exactly how you are feeling. You don’t have to show anyone, you can destroy it as soon as you have finished writing, but releasing those thoughts and emotions onto paper is incredibly healing. (If you want help with writing therapy get in touch, I am happy to support you with this.
  5. Be more mindful – mindfulness isn’t something formal and scary. You can meditate while you wash up. 

Incorporating things like mindfulness into your day might feel daunting. You may not know how to start, you may think you can’t do it, you may believe you don’t have time. Let me tell you, it’s easy, you can and you do. If you want to learn about how you can be more mindful every day, have a read of this blog I wrote a while back: Every Day Mindfulness.

Have I convinced you yet that you need to start thinking about your mental health as often as you do your physical health? 

We need to start encouraging people to spot the warning signs of depression and anxiety in the same way we do strokes and heart attacks. There should be media campaigns and people going into schools teaching our children how  to prevent mental health issues.

We don’t need a sticking plaster after we’ve fallen, we need to be taught how to walk the tightrope of mental health as proficiently as we possibly can in the hope that we never fall off.

 

Support for your mental health:

These are wonderful websites and apps which can support your mental health if you are struggling.

Young Minds

Calmer Classrooms

Mind

Calm

NHS England

The Folk of the Faraway Tree

The Folk of the Faraway tree

The Folk of the Faraway Tree

Most people have a book that is synonymous with their childhood, I have many, but I think The Folk of the Faraway Tree is the book that probably had the biggest impact on my life. I was 7 years old when I was bought this copy of the book and, also, The Magic Faraway Tree. I have no idea who bought them for me, but I would hazard a guess that it would have been one of my aunties.

These beautiful little hardback books are the perfect size for little hands. They feel grown up enough to not be babyish, but they aren’t so big that they can’t easily be held to read. As a child I shared a room with my sister Jen and we had bunkbeds. My parents very cleverly had a tall, thin bookcase at the end of the beds with tip on reading lights so we could always read at bedtime. 

It was genius because we didn’t even have to get out of bed to choose another book. I would reach over from the top bunk and grab a Faraway Tree book and the snuggle down under the covers to read for as long as I thought I could get away with it. I remember many times quickly clicking the light off and tucking my book under the covers when I heard my parents on the stairs. They very cleverly turned both myself and my sister into readers by making it something that was both universally approved of and also had a cut off time, which of course made us want to keep reading even more!

These magical books were firm favourites with both myself and my sister. The fact that you could read one chapter and have a complete adventure made them easy to devour at bedtime and we would dip in a re-read favourite chapters and enjoy eating ‘pop biscuits’ with Silky and Moonface or visit a favourite land at the top of the tree.

I’m so glad my Mum kept most of my children’s books because there is something special about holding a book that you read almost 40 years ago and seeing the name you wrote in the front.

Faraway tree books

Controversy

Of course there is now a lot of controversy around the writings of Enid Blyton. Whilst she was a staple of my childhood, my generation, she has faded in popularity with more recent generations, partly due to her inclusion of characters such as Golliwogs (which were always portrayed as naughty) and also the view that her books are sexist, xenophobic and racist. This has lead to revisions in more recent editions which have seen Goblins replace the Golliwogs in Noddy.

Enid Blyton, it could be argued, was very much a product of her time but I feel it is important to separate the author from the work at times like this. She was such a prolific author that some of her books are bound to have ruffled a few feathers as she is very much of another time. 

As a child I loved her books and having started with Noddy, I moved onto the Faraway Tree and then onto the Famous Five and Secret Seven. Far from feeling sexist (although I can see aspects of that in some of her work), these were books aimed at children where the girls adventured with the boys. I wanted to be George. She was amazing. I was a real tomboy as a child and loved climbing trees and playing with bows and arrows and on my bike. I rarely played with girls because, apart from my sister, most of the children round my street were boys. I loved the adventures and taking a picnic off and exploring for the day. Blyton’s books showed me that that was ok. 

Kate

Empowering girls and developing imagination

Reading Enid Blyton’s books showed me that girls could go off exploring, there may have been some difference in the attitude between the girls and boys and the way they were treated by the adults in the books, but nothing like as much as there was in many of the other books. Her books also sparked my imagination and let my ideas run free. We would make believe wherever we were as children and there was no limit to the possibilities when we played in a woodland or on a beach, something many children struggle with now.

I’m not saying that I approve of everything that Enid Blyton wrote, and there are certainly aspects of her life which are questionable, but she is undoubtedly responsible for turning 7 year old me into the voracious reader I was. Many rainy days in our caravan were passed adventuring with the Famous Five and many nights were spent dreaming of adventures up the Faraway Tree. What we read when we first develop the ability to read with some fluency can make a big difference to how keen we are to read for the rest of our lives and her books captured my imagination and my heart and although I feel sure that something else would have triggered that love of reading had The Faraway Tree not come along, it was a compelling and magical start to my reading life. What books are responsible for starting your love of reading?

Why are we banning books?

Banned books

Reading is so important so why are we banning books?

Reading and access to books are two of the biggest factors indicating a child’s likelihood to succeed at school and we know that when a child succeeds in school that can impact the rest of their lives, even if only in their confidence.

We know that children with access to books and who read have faired better during the lockdowns for example. It would, of course, be a mistake to think that adding a few books to every home would instantly improve educational standards, there are of course many other factors. There is no doubt that this has been a key indicator of a child’s success during the pandemic. Living in a home with books is important.

I can’t imagine a home without books, but then I have always been fortunate to have books. My favourite day of the school year was the day they came round with the book fair leaflet. I would run excitedly home to look through and choose my book, knowing that my parents would often have to say no treats we asked for, but book requests were always met with a firm yes. Sensibly no restrictions were ever put on what I chose, if I wanted something that might have been deemed to be frivolous or too young, as long as I read it, that was ok.

I was a voracious reader at primary school. I read every night with my little bedside light, everything from Secret Seven and The Magic Faraway Tree to the classics like The Hobbit and books about Robin Hood. I just loved books.

The joy drained from reading overnight

When I started high school things changed. Suddenly I was told what to read and worse still, when! I was made to read books I didn’t enjoy and the joy drained from reading over night. This is a familiar story I know. I have seen it so many times, including with my own children.

Fortunately as soon as I was past the age of being dictated to about what I read that joy returned like water through a broken dam. I began to read for fun and discovered philosophy and psychology books during sixth form and would sprinkle in Terry Pratchett books to lighten the mood. Reading opened so many doors to knew concepts, new ideas and times I can never live through.

Since then I have loved reading. There have been times when I haven’t read as much as I would choose because of circumstance or mental overload, but I have always read.

Banning books?

This week we are once again reading about banning books in schools in the US. Long lists of books that some people in particular states deem to be inappropriate and don’t want their children subjected to have begun to appear online. Anything that challenges gender or discusses race seems to be the target.

Anyone who has ever met, or been, a teenager knows that this technique is ludicrous. I have yet to meet a teenager who can’t find a way to access anything that adults ban them from whether that is cigarettes, alcohol, friends who are a bad influence, or books. I wonder then why these short sighted parents and adults haven’t realised that they are probably going to increase the number of teens reading these books significantly now they know there is something interesting in those banned pages.

Of course from my perspective this can only be an advantage. These misguided adults have effectively signposted all the most rebellious and controversial books of our time to ensure that our young people can find them more easily! Not just young adults either, I’m sure many adults will wonder what all the fuss is about and seek them out.

Be assured that this is precisely what will happen if these books are banned.

They can ban them in schools but they will still be available through bookshops, and second hand shops and probably even online. Our bright, liberal thinking young people will now read them to find out why people wanted to deprive them of this joy. In fact it will no doubt become one of the most rebellious and status giving things to do, and we all know how much teens love to rebel. 

So please, you narrow minded, ill-educated decision makers, please do keep signposting these books which will challenge the attitudes of certain elements of society. Keep showing our children which attitudes they need to obliterate when their generation are in charge, and that time will be here before we know it. The majority of Generation Z are already more accepting and open minded than any previous generations. I’m sure these banned books are just the tools they need to stretch that awareness even further and give them an understanding either of others they are sharing the world with, or historical events that we don’t want repeating under any circumstance.

Thank you book banners, you might have just found the one thing that will raise our young people’s eyes from their screens and get them reading. Long may it continue.

The Power of Handwriting

The power of handwriting

Handwriting has become quite trendy again over recent years.

In the same way that people are returning to paper books after the novelty of the e-reader has worn off for many, there has been a huge resurgence in writing by hand.

You don’t have to scroll through Tiktok for very long before you come across someone doing beautiful calligraphy. Journaling has also grown in popularity. More and more people are returning to pen and paper for everything from communication to events diaries. 

Why are people returning to these old ways?

Well, I think there are many reasons.

We know that when times are hard we find comfort in old familiar things, whether it be foods, objects of habits. When we write by hand many of us are returned to our childhood and a simpler life. It rekindles that carefree creativity we often experienced in our youth, before life became more complicated and stressful.

There is a general trend towards reusing things and not being wasteful and books can last and be enjoyed for hundreds of years and enjoyed by many people.

We are all feeling a little screened out after years now of Zoom meetings and working from home so sitting to relax with a paper book or handwriting a letter to a friend with pen and paper feels more like relaxing and less like work.

More importantly though, I think, is the science behind handwriting.

The science behind handwriting…

As a journal therapist, there are some interesting things which happen when we write by hand. You see, when you sit down to write the left, logical side of your brain immediately starts to work out the exact requirements of the piece; spelling, grammar, construction, content… however, when you allow yourself to write freely, without setting any limitations on yourself you discover the true magic. 

After a while the right, creative side of your brain will subtely take over the writing process and what flows onto the page can be as much of a surprise to you as to anyone.

handwriting

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.

Pick up a pen or pencil and a piece of paper or a notebook and start writing. When you think you can’t write anymore and you have written all your need to write today push yourself to keep writing, just a few more sentences. Even if you have to repeat the words that you write until new ones replace them, keep writing. What happens next is truly incredible. You will reaslise that you are suddenly writing more and more and that you are writing things which you didn’t even realise were true until they spilled onto the page. 

Honestly, give it a go.

Kate writing

By using this technique you can work through things that have been upsetting you or find solutions to problems. You can understand better why someone has upset you or what is holding you back. 

With the right guidance writing can be an incredibly powerful therapy. It can help you heal and move on from traumatic experiences and help you realise your dreams.

If you are interested in learning more abut the power of writing, why not sign up to my newsletter for journal prompts, writing and wellbeing news and so much more.

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