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6 Ways writing things down will change your life

6 Ways Writing things down will change your life blog

You don’t have to be a mind reader to know that I am an advocate for the power of writing.

Over the years writing has helped me in so many ways; to stay organised, to remember things, to process difficult feelings and so much more. I write every day. Sometimes it may just be a couple of lines and others it is pages and pages. Like everyone my days are varied and I don’t really have a daily routine so some days I have more time to write than others, but even on the busiest day, I find time to write. 

Why is it so important to me? Well, hopefully once you have read this post you will understand. It grounds me, reminds me and helps me to figure out what is going on in my life. But it is even more than that. Here are the top 6 ways I have found writing has changed my life.

1. Writing helps me remember things

I genuinely don’t know where I would be without my diary, range of notebooks and my to do lists. If I need to remember something I write it down. Not only does that help me to remember whatever it is I have written down, it frees up space in my head for other thoughts. If you don’t make a note of things you need to remember your brain has to keep hold of it and that stops you from being able to process other thoughts, which might be more useful and relevant to your day. If you need to remember something, write it down. It allows your brain to process that information and you often remember it better anyway as it moves to a different part of your memory once it is written down.

2. It creates a record 

Many people keep a diary. Whether it is of upcoming appointments or a record of their day, this is a great way to keep track of what you have done and when. My Dad has kept a daily diary for almost 50 years, and while we may occasionally rib him for it, the number of times he is able to go back and pin point an event for us is incredible. As a result I now keep a simple diary myself in the hope that once day I will be able to do the same for myself and my children.

3. It allows you to process difficult emotions

When you talk things through with a friend or loved one you often have a-ha moments and realisations which would otherwise have remained buried. The same thing happens when you write about an issue. It is also easier to write about really difficult issues than it is to talk about them, which is why traditionally we write or text someone when we have something really difficult to say. Writing it down to yourself allows you to go through the same process though.

4. It gives you insight

When you write things down you access different parts of your brains to when you talk. This allows you to gain deep insights into how you are feeling and discover things about yourself that you may have been totally unaware of until that moment.   Journaling using a prompt can give you solutions to situations you have been struggling work through. By writing and keeping writing when we believe we have nothing more to say, we can often unearth some really deep insights.

change

5. It gives you a sense of achievement

When you write things down consistently over time, you can look back and really see how much progress you have made. It is so easy to think that we haven’t achieved anything, yet in reality we are all learning and growing every single day. Writing things down is a wonderful way to chart that progress and help you acknowledge how much you have really progressed.

6. It helps you commit to things

When you write something down you are much more likely to achieve it or work towards it. If you tell someone you are going to do something, you have committed to it and are more likely to follow through. Likewise if you write a goal or a task down, you have made yourself accountable and you are much more likely to succeed. Research shows that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down every day. If you want to achieve something grab a pen and paper, whether it is weight loss, promotion or your dream partner, get writing.

Have I convinced you yet?

A daily writing habit has been a game changer for me. I started many years ago and I know that it has helped me to deal with mental health issues, it has helped me to process grief and to heal relationships. It allows me to see my personal development and my professional growth and it gives me a wonderful record of myself in a time capsule. I can look back and discover how I was feeling the night I discovered I was pregnant with my children or how I felt when my Grandma died. I feel very honoured to have this ability, after all, not everyone can write. 773 million adults globally are illiterate.  Even in the UK over 7 million people are described as having poor literacy skills.

I would love to live in a world where everyone had access to books and writing equipment. Where every child was taught to read and write and appreciate the gift that that is. It would make me so happy to know that everyone in the world could benefit from the power of writing the way I have over the years.

If you are reading this, you are one of the lucky ones. Be thankful for your abilities, and take them to the next level with a daily writing habit. If you don’t know how, get in touch or sign up for my newsletter. I include writing prompts and tips and tricks every week to help you become a confident, contented writer. Just complete the form at the bottom of the page.

Find out more about the importance of writing every day:

Why you should write daily

The power of handwriting

 

What are your priorities?

Priorities

Priorities can be a controversial subject…

One person’s priorities, may not be important to another person. We all have things that we make time for, or put first, and our priorities may change many times in a lifetime. 

Recently I have been thinking a lot about priorities and making the right choice over the easy choice. I have made some big changes in my business because it is important to me to be doing what feels right, not necessarily what is easy. There are many things I can do easily, but if I’m not enjoying doing them, then the quality of my life is going to be less than perfect. Quality of life is important to me. It doesn’t matter to me how successful I am if I am unhappy or my loved ones don’t see me. One of those choices is making my family a priority, it always has been.

The last few months have been challenging for my little family, this might be an understatement.

I’ll give you a glipse into the last six weeks: 

  • Covid finally caught up with us at Easter and it took us a while to recover (truthfully I think we still are).
  • My father in law had a stroke. Not a serious one, thankfully but it shook us all up and as my husband works with his Dad, this has caused work stress as well as family worries for him.
  • My daughter is due to start her A levels next week, which would be stressful enough but she was disgnoased with anaemia last week and then started with tonsillitis at the weekend.
  • My son is worrying about his position in his football team and has a few friendship issues.
  • We have had difficult news about a close family friend who is now in end of life care.

This is just the edited highlights (lowlights might be more accurate!). To say it has been an emotionally charged few months would be an understatement. But my priority is always, and has always been, family and loved ones.

I read so much about the importance of consistency in business, and I know that it is important. When you post on social media regularly, blog every week, send out regular newsletters etc that is how your business grows. 

However, I also know that I wouldn’t be being true to myself and my values if I didn’t occasionally have to put my family first. I would not be able to feel good about myself if my business was thriving but my family was falling apart. 

Light at the end of the tunnel

Life is like this sometimes isn’t it? We all go through times when we wonder what else life can throw at us, but we get through it eventually. Sometimes it takes linger than others, but nothing is forever.

I am making sure that I am looking after my own wellbeing and upping my vitamins and self care, because at the moment I feel like the glue that is keeping everything together and functioning.

light at the end of the tunnel

This isn’t a role that is new to me, I cast myself willingly. I am a carer, I can’t help it. I’m good at it too, I would never have said that out loud a few years ago, but I am. You see I care deeply about people. Whether it is a a family member, good friend or client, once I commit to supporting someone they get me 100%. 

For the last few weeks I have been doing essential work and fitting that around the needs of my family. My family have come first though. Fortunately I haven’t had to cancel any meetings or appointments, but if I had to I know my clients would understand because part of the reason they chose me is because of my values, my priorities. I would find it hard to work with people who didn’t understand that sometimes our family commitments have to take priority. 

Your priorities make you who you are!

 

Don’t get me wrong, when I commit to working with you, I will move heaven and earth to be there to support you, not just during our sessions either. But I will do the same for my family and friends and sometimes that might mean I don’t get chance to post on social media for a few days. It might mean that I have to postpone our appointment, only if it is absolutely essential, but I will do it. Equally if something comes up at last minute that is a priority for you, I will be understanding.

This too shall pass

When this emotionally charged time is over, I will be back to dividing my focus between family, work and everything else that is important to me. But for now, my family need slightly more attention than usual, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t acknowledge that and make the necessary changes. I am so grateful that my business allows me the flexibility to juggle some jobs to weekends or evenings, or whenever I need to, in order to be there for my loved ones. 

Don’t worry, my physical and mental health is one of my top priorities too, so I am looking after myself as well as caring for everyone else. 

When I work with a professional I look for people with similar values to me. If I have a meeting with someone and they don’t turn up, no email, no call, nothing and when I finally hear from them it is because their child was taken ill and they had to take them to hospital, or their mum had a fall, their best friend’s husband left them last night or even their dog was taken ill, I would respect them even more for having priorities that align with mine. It is so easy to feel annoyed when we are inconvenienced by others, but everyone is human, with crises, emergencies and life events that are unpredictable.

What are your priorities? Do you have more or less respect for someone who puts their loved ones first?

How can journaling help with exam stress?

Journaling for exam stress blog

Sitting an exam is incredibly stressful for most people.

Our fight, flight or freeze response can kick in just at the mention of exams and it doesn’t seem to matter how capable we are they send a wave of sickness and fear through us. 

This week is SATs week here in the UK (exams for 7 and 11 year olds) then we are straight into GCSE and A level season. As a teacher I have been on both sides of this horror, believe me it can be just as nerve wracking for the teachers as it is for the students.

How can journaling help? Surely that’s just more writing and there’s enough of that during your exams!

Well, yes, it is writing but it is a very different type of writing. It isn’t essays and long questions, it is free and it allows us to process how we are feeling. We may even solve problems during journaling.

When we journal we actually relax the part of our brain that we need to engage during exams and other forms of writing. We don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure or even spelling, we just allow the words to spill out onto the page. 

By sitting down and allowing the words to just flow onto the page we allow our unconscious brain to process things that our conscious mind can’t. It reduces the tendency towards negative thoughts, which is perhaps the biggest issue during exams, you convince yourself that it isn’t going to go well and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. When you acknowledge your worries and write them down, your brain is able to move on from that fear. In the same way, when we write down our shopping list we are able to stop repeating what we need over and over. 

Want to improve your results? Journal!

When we write about our anxieties and worries, they are automatically eased, in the same way our troubles seem less when we talk to someone. There is so much evidence now though journaling improves mental health, and even physical health (both of which we need to be successful in exams).

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that students who journalled for just ten minutes before an exam, about what was worrying them, improved their results by a whole grade. This is poweful stuff.

 

change

Imagine the different it could make if you allowed yourself ten minutes every day to journal about how you are feeling about your exams. 

Journaling can also help you to stay organised during your exams. You can use your journal to write down things you need to remember to take with you, topics you need to revise and much more. It really is an invaluable tool for all students.

Are you going to take up the journal challenge this exam season? Why would you not want to improve your grades and feel more calm? Just ten minutes a day, you definitely spend more time than that scrolling social media.

Let me know if you do give journaling a go and how it made you feel. 

 

Here are some prompts to get you started:

The thing that worries me about this exam is…

What I am really good at is…

I’m most worried that…

When my exams are over I will…

 

 

Why do you read?

Read

There are so many reasons to read.

We read the instructions on a food packet, the subtitles on a foreign language film, our friends’ social media posts, blogs, newspaper articles, books, magazines… the list is almost endless. 

From the moment we wake up we start reading. 

We read for such a wide range of purposes. Reading helps us to find out how to do things, like the instructions on food packets or an instruction manual. It might educate us about something, in the case of a blog post or newspaper article. We are able to learn about other people through their social media posts or a letter in the post – remember those? We are able to get information from someone we haven’t seen, when we get a note in our child’s school bag from their teacher. There are so many reasons to read.

 

When it comes to books though there are two main reasons most people read a book:

  • to learn something 
  • to experience things you may not be able to otherwise

Did you know there are many other benefits to reading though?

Reading can:

  • improve your vocabulary
  • reduce stress
  • improve brain function
  • help prevents dementia and alzheimers
  • improve your ability to focus
  • improve your general knowledge
  • encourage empathy
  • make you feel more positive
  • help you sleep better
  • improve memory
  • increase your problem solving ability
  • make you a better writer
  • expand your imagination
  • help you escape the stresses of every day life

Of course many of these benefits are associated with reading books, reading a blog on your phone, for example, probably won’t help you sleep. Reading the instructions on a food packets tends to make me think my memory is going rather than improving, if the number of times I have to fish one out of the bin to double check what I have just read is anything to go by!

The question of memory is an interesting one. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can read a book, really enjoy it, but not be able to remember very much about it at all within a matter of months, weeks sometimes!

reading

Does it matter if you can’t remember what your read?

I think the problem is that I have read a lot of books over the years. In the same way I can’t always remember what a film is about, even though I know I’ve seen it. I can’t always remember what happens in a book either. Like most people my memory has sections. I prioritise what I remember. I will remember parents evenings, medical appointments but not often what channel my favourite tv programme is on. I think this is fairly normal. After all, there is a lot to remember in an average day. 

Relax and unwind

Reading definitely helps me sleep…

I do know that reading before bed helps me to sleep though. It also helps me feel much more calm. If I don’t read for a few days I can feel it in my body.

As a parent and ex-teacher, I have also seen first hand, many times, that avid readers have better vocabulary, wider imaginations, write better and spell more accurately. Encouraging children to read is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

 

Why do you read?

Just stop and think about all the things you have read in the last few days and why you were reading them. I’m sure there will be many reasons you have used reading, including reading this now! Now imagine how different your life would be if you were unable to read or had never been taught to read. This is the reality for many adults in the world. According to the Literacy Trust 16% of adults have poor literacy levels in the UK. According to UNESCO, globally 773 million adults are illiterate globally. That’s a lot of people who are unable to access all the benefits we have already discussed. Take a moment to appreciate your ability to read, whatever reasons you choose to read. Appreciate the person who taught you to read and gave you a passion for words. Reading is a wonderful gift, whether you can remember what happened in that book you read last year, or not. 

Find out more about the benefits of reading:

Benefits of Reading Books

The Power of Story

Your Journal; best friend and therapist

journal

Your journal can serve so many purposes. Do you know how to get the best from your journal time though?

There is much talk about journaling these days. There is no doubt that getting my first journal was a life changing moment for me, but what is all the fuss about? Surely it’s just a fancy name for a notebook or diary.

Well, firstly keeping a journal isn’t the same as keeping a diary. A diary is somewhere to record what you have been doing and a journal is so much more than that.

If you haven’t tried journaling, or you have tried it but not really managed to get into it, you might be wondering what the big deal is, but let me tell you, the possibilities are endless and the benefits, numerous.

What are the benefits of journaling?

Journaling has many benefits, both physical and mental. When you journal you access parts of your brain that most people don’t tap into when they are writing. You are able to discover things about yourself that you haven’t been consciously aware of before. You can work through issues, or problems, in a safe space, without judgment.

It is also proven that journaling boosts your immune system and helps you heal quicker from physical injuries. Mind blowing isn’t it? Just by writing for a few minutes every day you could be physically healthier.

Your best friend

When you take the time to sit and write in your journal you can really work through how you feel about a situation or plan without any judgment. It is like sitting chatting to your best friend. You may find that what you write isn’t always what you expected. You might see ideas appear on the page that you hadn’t considered and completely change your mind about something as you debate with yourself the benefits or pitfalls of a situation.

journaling

You might think that as it is only you writing and working through a challenge, that you will always write whatever you want to believe. When you are true to yourself though and practise journaling regularly, you will begin to see other options appearing on the page that you hadn’t previously considered. When we journal we can access our unconscious thoughts as well as our conscious mind. 

The important thing is not to filter what you are writing. Write freely and without worrying about spelling, grammar or content. Just keep writing. If you run out of things to say keep writing something until you think of something else to say. 

therapist

The cheapest therapy you will ever experience…

When you visit a therapist or counsellor, much of the time will be spent with you talking and them listening. This is exactly what you can do in your journal. 

I’m not suggesting that solo journaling is a replacement for therapy, there is still a need for a good therapist at times, but for minor issues a journal is a good starting point. You may even work through a situation enough to get some resolution. Even for bigger issues which do require professional help journaling can be a good starting point for the healing process.

 

When you journal you are able to be more objective about a situation because you feel slightly detached from what you are writing about. It often feels as though you are writing a story about someone else. Provided you feel safe in the knowledge that no-one is going to read what you write without your permission, you can write freely and get any frustration and anger out in the open. You are able to go through all the possibilities in a safe, theoretical way. Often just the process of writing something down allows us to understand it better.

So the next time you feel as though you need to talk something through but you don’t know who to trust. Or perhaps you have a problem that you can’t find a satisfactory solution to, pick up a pen and paper and write it out until it clicks into place or at least starts to. You might be surprised by what you discover when you start to journal regularly. It has been a life changing habit for me. I journal almsot every day. It has helped me with personal challenges, health issues, and business decisions over the years. Give it a go, what have you got to lose?

writing

If you feel that you would like support or guidance with your journal practice, why not join A little word told me…? This wonderfully supportive group is a great place to experiment with journaling and I am on hand to answer any questions and support you as well as providing prompts every week and giving you a dose of inspiration to help you keep writing. Wherever you are in the world you can benefit from this nurturing journaling membership. I would love you to join us.

Gentleman Jack: The Power of Journaling

Anne Lister, Gentleman Jack

Gentleman Jack has captured our hearts

The story of Anne Lister, played by Suranne Jones, has given us a whole new insight into life in the early 19th Century. Born the same year George III came to the throne, Anne Lister was a dynamic and strong woman in a time when women were expected to be subserviant. She inherited land and ran her business, and her life, in a manner that did not sit well with a lot of people. In addition to her very masculine way of going about her business, she was also openly gay, which in those times was shocking. 

Although lesbianism has never, to my knowledge, been illegal in the UK, it was assumed that women who lived together and even shared a bed, were “just friends” and keeping each other company. 

Anne Lister was not shy in her relationships, and made it quite clear to anyone around her that this was not the case. 

Gentleman Jack’s diaries

During her life, Lister kept a journal where she detailed everything from business transactions to how she seduced women. When these diaries were discovered in the attic of Shibden Hall by the last inhabitant of the Hall, John Lister (a descendant of Anne Lister’s paternal grandfather). He set about deciphering them with a friend and local school teacher. 

Upon discovering the contents of the diaries Lister was advised to burn them, but he refused and the remained in the attic until the hall was taken over by Halifax Corporation, which later became calderdale Council. The school teacher who had assisted John Lister in translating the diaries, who was by now in his 80s, gave the council details of the code. A team of researchers the cracked the rest of the code and it is these diaries which now form the foundation of Gentleman Jack. 

During her 49 years of life, Anne Lister write over 5 million words in her journals, which is three times the length of Samuel Pepys diary. Her diary began on sheets of paper but when she began writing seriously she wrote in two school exerecise books. She began writing her journal when she was just 15 years old and continued to write throughout her life. 

What I love about her diaries is the personal content and the bravery of recording, what was afterall, a controversial life. Lister was afterall beaten and verbally attacked for her choices. 

Anne Lister - Gentleman Jack
Anne Lister Quote

This quote, taken from Anne Lister’s diary shows how important her diaries were for her mental health:

 

“What comfort this journal. I tell myself to myself and then throw

the burden on my book and feel relieved.”

She also wrote in a letter to her aunt in 1803; “My library is my greatest pleasure” showing that her love of the written word was life long, and important to her emotional health as well as her education.

I think I would have liked Gentleman Jack. I have always been drawn to the tomboy characters in literature and I love a good strong woman who knows her mind. After all I was a tomboy myself as a child and have always been quite headstrong.

She grew up, not that far from where I was raised too. Shibden Hall is only 10 miles from my childhood home in Gildersome, just outside Leeds. Having visited regularly as a child, I remember learning all about Gentleman Jack. On a visit with the Guides we learned about the secret diaries and I was enchanted by this strong, Yorkshire lass. I was always looking for strong role models from the past. I was enamoured of any woman who was brave enough to rock the boat at a time when we were expected to sit down and shut up. Her sense of style also fascinated me. I still love her style. If only I was brave enough to dress like her now! The costumes in Gentleman Jack are  stunning, but it isn’t the dresses and frills that I am admiring. It is the black floor length coats, the top hats and the starched shirts of Anne Lister. 

More than her appearance and her feisty nature though, I loved that she had a secret code, after all I had grown up reading Secret Seven and was fascinated by coded texts. 

Secret diaries of Gentleman Jack

Her code, comprised of the Greek alphabet, zodiac, mathematical symbols and punctuation, was relatively simple, apparently, although I’m not sure I would have cracked it. The fact that she was writing from the heart and pouring everything onto the page in this coded way, gave her some protection and ensured that noone else could easily read her journals. 

Anne Listers coded text

When we write in a journal and use the page therapeutically, as Gentleman Jack clearly did, it is important that we feel safe in being completely honest and saying exactly what we feel and she clearly had a good understanding of this from a very early age. She knew intuitively, as many of us do, that writing things down was a way for her to process the events of her life and work through any challenges. Given that only 40% of women were literate in 1800, she was fortunate that she was born into the circumstances she was and had access to this early therapy.

A very brief history of personal journaling

The earliest personal diary is believed to be that of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, during 2nd Century AD. Leonardo Da Vinci of course kept a detailed diary in 15th Century Italy. Given that literacy rates in the UK were only around 11% in the 15th Century, it hardly surprising that journaling didn’t take off more widely until a few years later. 

By the turn of the 20th Century literacy rates in the UK had reached a massive 97% (only 2% less than it is today), this gave many more people access to the written word, and if they chose, to diary writing. Diary writing was at its most popular during Victorian times, so it was just growing in popularity when Anne Lister began her journaling habit.

I find it fascinating that given that it was mostly women who kept personal diaries in the 1800s, Anne Lister allowed herself this feminine pastime. Perhaps it was her way of releasing all the tension that built up as a result of her life choices. What a blessing it is for us that she did though as it has given us an insight into an incredible woman. A woman who would, most likely, have been lost to history without this personal account of her unorthodox and fascinating life. 

 

 

Find out more about Anne Lister, Gentleman Jack and the power of journaling:

The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister

Gentleman Jack filming locations

The Power of Words

A little word told me…

 

The Joy of Reading

The Joy of Reading

Reading is as much a part of my life as writing.

I have always loved to read, from being a very small child I remember asking for the same stories over and over again, my Dad still rolls his eyes if I mention “Daisy Dog’s Wake-up Book”. It was my favourite for a quite a long time I think.

As I got older and was able to read myself I always had a book with me, we had a big tall bookcase next to our bunkbeds so that I could reach my books from the top bunk and books were a godsend on wet caravanning holidays.

I loved reading a series so I really got to know the characters. Whether it was Meg and Mog, Dorrie the Little Witch, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Dr Dolittle, The Chronicles of Narnia… I could always find a series that captures me and allowed me to go off on adventures from the comfort of my own bed. 

Why is reading so important?

It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn that I love reading, I don’t really hide the fact that I love books. Why is reading so important though? Well, quite simply, the more you read the better your writing becomes. As an ex-teacher, you could always see the difference in the spelling and grammar between the children who read more confidently and those who didn’t enjoy reading. Obviously all children develop at different ages, and many caught up, and indeed overtook, their peers in time, but those children who just didn’t enjoy reading didn’t have the same grasp of language in their written work.

It’s obvious really that the more you read the more you see correct spellings, you learn grammatical rules just by hearing them so often that they become automatic and you learn new words and expand your own vocabulary too.

There is so much more to reading than just the benefits to your reading and writing styles though. It is proven that people who read more have greater levels of empathy than those who don’t, it reduces stress and even helps you sleep. 

Known benefits of reading

There are many known benefits to reading, here are just a few:

  • Strengthens your brain
  • Reduces Stress
  • Increases empathy
  • Helps you prepare for sleep
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Improves depression
  • Prevents alzheimers and dementia
  • It may even help you live longer!

 

Reading

Reading is a wonderful pass time. 

For me, reading is a way to travel without leaving my own home, a way to experience many lives as well as my own and a way to learn a myriad of things. As a life long learner reading is vital for my happiness.

I love to read. Do I read every day though? Well, I read something every day, I don’t always pick up my book to read every day though. I also don’t tend to set myself reading goals, or worry about reading so many books a month etc. For me this puts pressure on something which should be a joy. 

I do love to read, but sometimes my eyes are tired and I can’t concentrate on what I am reading. Like everyone, if I read when I am too tired I end up having to re-read huge sections again.

Reading shouldn’t be a competition. It should be pure pleasure. 

Audiobooks

The controversy of the audiobook

There is huge debate about whether audiobooks count when discussing books you have read. Why wouldn’t they? Admittedly there may not be all the benefits of reading a printed book, but you still experience the story, it could be argued that you experience it to a greater degree. 

My Dad has a divergent squint and gets terrible headaches when he reads for any period of time. Every night my Mum reads a chapter of the book they are reading together to him. 

It is one of the greatest acts of love I have ever witnessed. My Mum loves to read and she wants to enable Dad to experience the joy of these stories too. They could listen to audio books and that would be the same thing, but Mum chooses to read so they can stop and discuss things as they go along. It is beautiful. 

On a similar theme, we wouldn’t pass judgement over someone who had sight impairement for listening to audio books, they are a valid way to digest information and stories, especially in a busy world. Many people listen to books on their commute. This is a wonderful use of your time. What could be better?

Reading, in whatever form, should be joyful. Of course there are times when we have to read things, which may be less than enjoyable, but, if we are sitting down to read, we should look forward to that time. 

Whether we are reading a business book or a fantasy novel we are giving our time to that content and our time is precious. If you get part way through and you aren’t enjoying it, put it back on the shelf and read something else, you can always come back to it later. Sometimes we just aren’t in the right place to read that particular book.

reading

On another day we might not be able to put it down. There is nothing more wonderful than finding a book that we just want to keep reading. I can remember starting a few books over the years that I have ended up reading while making tea, while I get the children ready for bed (literally supervising toothbrushing while reading another few lines!), and not being able to sleep until I had finished. That is a good book. A book that draws you in and captivates you to such a degree is magical. If you have never experienced that feeling, don’t give up, the right book will find you. The right book can change your life forever, really.

The most important thing is that you keep reading though. Whatever it is you enjoy reading. You might love Young Adult fiction – great! Perhaps you love reading about Ancient Egypt or the internal workings of the combustion engine – brilliant! It doesn’t matter what you read, or even how much you read, the important thing is that you read. 

What is your favourite book? What is it about that book that you love so much? Let me know in the comments.

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?

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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. 

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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

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  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?

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