On Sunday 4 June Plan To Thrive’s Suse Scholem ran a workshop on journaling as a regular self-care practice. The workshop wove together theories from a range of fields including psychology, neuroscience and social change, discussion about the benefits of journaling and other writing, ways that the written word can be used in our activism, and time for participants to practice on our own.

Suse started with a grounding exercise before jumping into some group activities.

Participants discussed their relationship to writing and ways we find journaling beneficial. The answers included:

  • Helping us clarify our thoughts
  • Allowing us to say things creatively
  • Collecting, gathering and integrating our thoughts
  • Tracking what’s going on inside our heads
  • Relieving anxiety, relaxation
  • Improved sleep

Suse added that writing has been used by mental health practitioners to assist people to change neural pathways and rewrite the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and our lives, allowing us to move forward.

Suse discussed some of the history of the written word and art in activism, such as the rise of zines, the use of screen printing and political cartoons, and subversive letter writing between soldiers during war time. Today, written word and paper-based communication including art is used effectively in campaign actions that aim for maximum visibility. Charles Eisenstein is a speaker and activist who believes in order for humans to move from ecological destruction and division to reunion and interconnectedness, it is necessary to envision this story.

Examples of regular writing practices include:

  • Gratitude diary
  • Morning pages and stream of consciousness
  • Poetry
  • Prose
  • Story-writing
  • Letter-writing
  • Narrative and fiction
  • Narrative therapy and writing about ourselves in the third person

Suse asked us to complete these sentence starters:

  • Today I feel like…
  • I am…
  • When I was a kid…
  • One of my favourite things to do is…
  • The other day I saw…
  • When I want to relax I…
  • When I think about what I’ve achieved this year I feel…

Here are the group’s responses about relaxation:

When I want to relax I…
‘Light candles, read a book and listen to music’
‘Close my eyes and look inside; the world is so busy and distracting’
‘Take a cuppa outside and watch my vegetables grow’
‘Have a bath, watch a show, lie down, go for a wander, or take drugs’
‘Get out into nature’
‘Improvise on the ukelele – I don’t yet know how to play’
‘Walk without purpose’
‘Lie under a tree’

Group member Cherie Dearle answered a few questions about the workshop.

What did you find valuable about the workshop?
I found lots of things valuable but one thing I was surprised by was how rejuvenating it felt to be in such a safe, judgement free and nurturing space for a few hours. That alone made me realise how important time out for dedicated self care really is and how I need to prioritise getting that in my life.

I also found the tips about different types of writing really valuable. I guess I was already aware of some of the benefits of writing but the thought of actually sitting down and doing it was overwhelming because I would think things like ‘I’m not a writer’, ‘I’m not creative’ etc etc. The exercises gave me some great starting points for my own writing like picking a few sentence stems or just planning to write continuously for a number of minutes no matter what i’m saying. I definitely feel more prepared to write and much less overwhelmed and self doubty.

When do you find yourself turning to writing? How does it help you?
I haven’t actually done much writing for a number of years but I used to mostly use it when I was having a hard time, particularly if I was involved in some sort of conflict. It would definitely help me to sort out my thoughts. I can remember examples when I was really angry and upset and was just going around in circles with the situation in my mind. Once I did some writing I was able to gain a clearer picture of what it was exactly that I was feeling and how to move forward.

I’ve also used writing during times of grief. When I lost my Grandmother who I was extremely close to I had a really hard time recovering. I bought a journal and wrote down everything I could remember from the time I found out she had passed until the end of her funeral and that really helped me to start to move on. It was like I didn’t have to try and hold those feelings and memories in my mind anymore and they were safe and protected.

Do you feel people need to be creative in order to benefit from journalling? What are the dangers of believing you are not a creative type?
I definitely don’t think you need to be creative to benefit from journalling, thanks partly to this workshop 🙂

I think believing you aren’t a creative person leads to you missing out on all the amazing benefits of seemingly creative activities. Writing just for the sake of writing in this workshop felt so nurturing and free-ing. My creativity had absolutely nothing to do with the benefits I felt even though writing typically feels like a creative activity. This workshop definitely gave me more of a drive to let go of thinking I’m not creative enough to do something.

Thanks Cherie!

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Thanks Suse for creating such a welcoming space in which to share the wisdom of writing!

Thanks as always to our crowdfunding campaign supporters for making this workshop possible!

Our next workshop on Holistic Health x 3 is coming up on Sunday 9 July. In this workshop a GP and a naturopath will join members of Community Shiatsu Cooperative to give guidance and answer questions about building immunity for the winter and general wellbeing.