Newsletter Archive

image_print

Cultivating Courage

There is not enough darkness in the world

to extinguish one candle.

           Saint Francis of Assisi

 

   Where and when do we need courage?

It is often in the darkest moments of our lives that we need courage.

What comes to your mind when you think of a “darkness in the world” in your life? What were the circumstances? Who was involved, either by being present or even by being absent?  What did you fear? What challenged you to go on? What allowed you to stay focused on the candlelight?

   What does courage look like?

What images do you associate with courage? Do you think of Covid front line workers, soldiers facing overwhelming odds, cancer patients “fighting” for their lives?

Our ancestors left all that they knew, taking all that they had, in a single small suitcase to a new land where they braved long winter nights in sod huts. That takes courage. Women of the suffrage movement and those who took part in civil rights protests changed the destiny of many of us.

When you think of specific people you would call courageous, who comes to mind? Nelson Mandala? Wyatt Earp? Desmond Doss as portrayed in the Hacksaw Ridge movie? Or someone that you know:  a grandmother who raised her Down’s Syndrome grandson from the time he was two? Perhaps you know a young man, who as law student became a quadriplegic, and went on to become a judge.

   Who is most likely to be brave?

Courage is not limited to the old or the young, to the civilian or the soldier, to the nobleman or the peasant. Even the young can teach their elders.

____

A 9 year old boy, a member of the Junior Pilgrim Writers club, was facing unjustified corporal punishment from his father. The boy found the courage to say to his father with compassion and directness ,

“When I grow up, I don’t want to be like you.”  

The Dad instantly aborted the flogging.

The next day the father met with his son’s school principal and said to her, “I want you to teach me what my son is learning.”

____

It is sometimes easier to face physical danger if you are strong or have a weapon. A strong faith may help during the grief of a painful loss. A strong medical team is a definite asset when facing a threatening illness. All of these situations, though, have the backdrop of fear.

Take a moment now to remember someone who you feel has courage.  What fear were they willing to face?  What is it that pulls them forward despite challenging circumstances?

   Prerequisites of courage?

Courage is not a single act, but rather a mental set sustained over a longer period of time.  At least three factors enter into the mindset of courage, whether it be a specific moment of bravery or an ongoing commitment.

Firstly, there is a momentary or a sustained fear. There is a potential to lose something of value, whether it be life, limb, a valued relationship, or something as abstract as democracy.

Secondly, there is a deeply held belief. The stronger your belief or value, the more it guides behavior.

Thirdly, courage doesn’t come with a guaranteed outcome. Courage arises from giving it our best efforts despite dismal odds. Courage unfolds by holding on to what we believe and letting go of the uncertainly of an outcome.

   Called to courage – examples

  • While hiking with their mom, a cougar lunges at her son and young daughter. Mom instinctively intercedes without thought of possible circumstances.
  • A young father of two is told his leukemia is not responding to treatment. He is informed that increased doses of chemotherapy could be fatal. With little hesitation, he says “let’s go for it”. He understands there is no guarantee.
  • A young widow holds two jobs to make ends meet. Somedays she wonders if one day, she will fall short of what it takes to provide for her family. Her commitment though never waivers.

In each example, there is a fear; there are values and beliefs that guide behavior; and the outcome is uncertain.

   What courage do you need?

Think of a situation in your life that you are reluctant to confront or deal with? What kind of courage does it call for? What do you need the courage to do or to stop doing? Do you need the courage to speak out or the courage to be silent? Do you need the courage to stand alone or to ask for help? To say “yes” or to say “no”? To stand your ground or to admit you are wrong?

What is required may be something major, or it may be to simply do what you can with what you have, where you are at that moment.

   Courage and writing

It  is often said that writing itself takes courage. For those who use writing to explore beliefs and values, writing can clarify and strengthen commitment. Looking into our souls and asking ourselves, “What do we stand for?”, is an act of courage.

For writers or “wanna’ be writers”, it can take courage to accept a challenging writing assignment, to persevere with a creative project or to try a new genre. Pursuing publication requires the courage to face rejection or criticism.

Writing has the power to affirm courage.  A veteran of three wars gave his first Armistice talk honoring the 21 men with whom he served who did not return. Tears came to his eyes as nine year old Melissa presented him with a bundle of thank you notes from her grade four class thanking him for his sacrifice and his courage.

Many veterans of many wars violated military regulations by keeping personal diaries, often openly writing in quiet periods at the front lines. Letters to and from war zones were reminders that there was something to fight for, something to return to.

Suggested reading

The Train in Winter is a truly chilling portrait of ordinary women who found the courage to do extraordinary things as part of the WW2 French resistance.

In Writing to Change the World, Mary Pipher draws our attention to how writers have helped reshape our society.

Research

The website This I believe is an international organization that shares people’s writing about their core values. There are over 100,000 essays written by people from all walks of life and categorized by theme. They also have a weekly featured podcast.

Writing strategy of the month – The essay

Please read several of the essays on the “This I believe” website, then write your own essay espousing what you believe about some aspect of life. The site has generously provided guidelines which are as follows:

   Tell a story about you. Explain the circumstances that shaped your core values.  Be specific. Describe moments when a belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work and family. Your story need be neither heartwarming nor gut-wrenching. It can even be funny but it should be real. Tie the story to the essence of your philosophy of life.

   Be brief: Your statement should be between 500-600 words.

   Be positive: Write about what you believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing.

   Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid using “we”. Tell a story about your own life. This is not an opinion piece about social ideals. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. The recommendation is that you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, editing it until you have the words and tone that truly echo your beliefs and the way you speak.

Photo question of the month

 

 

What do I need to remember as I pass through the war zones of my life?

Please  write an essay in response to this question.

Staying in the Calm Zone

Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.

Ma Jaya Sali Bhagavati

“Staying in the Calm Zone”

 

Is stress optional?

Unfortunately not. Life in ordinary times has its stressful events. In this unprecedented time of COVID, the stressors are multiplied and magnified. The challenge is to listen to our inner voice, the one voicing what is happening in our inner life. What do you hear when you ask these questions?

What are the challenges of COVID in your day to day life? What are the increased demands? Or, is there decreased stimulation. How would you describe your response to the demands and restrictions imposed by COVID?

As you approach the holiday season, how is your “joy” meter? What is the level of “good cheer” in your heart?

What is the Calm Zone?

The Calm Zone is the emotional zone in which you feel comfortable, safe, composed, even relaxed. Flanking the Calm Zone is a Red Zone and a Blue Zone. The Red Zone is where you feel restless, tense, unsettled, perhaps irritated or anxious. In The Blue Zone, you are likely to feel disheartened, discouraged, even demoralized – and for sure, stuck.

In the Calm Zone, we still have, if needed, the capacity for the fight or flight response. The Calm Zone is not passive. We still experience ups and downs but we return to a stable emotional state relatively quickly despite external stressors. In the Calm Zone, we can have our feelings, but our feelings don’t have us.

Zones are not just attitudes. They are physiological states that indicate the level of arousal that our bodies are feeling.

How does stress affect our bodies and our well-being?

To oversimplify, we are designed for short term stress. Our bodies react to a threat and then reset to a state of balance.

Chronic stress keeps our arousal levels too high for too long. Being outside of the Calm Zone for long periods of time has substantial consequences on our bodies, our feelings, our thinking and our relationships.

Each of us is unique in the way that we experience chronic stress. One person may develop high blood pressure, while another develops fatigue. Irrational thoughts and fears are common. Some people become cranky; others feel overwhelmed.

How do I  know what zone I am in?

Being aware of your body is key. How relaxed are you? How is your energy level? How well are you sleeping? Are you over eating or losing weight? Is there a bounce in your step? Is there delight in your voice? Are you finding yourself  ‘short’ with friends, family or strangers? How is your sense of humor?

Does your mind turn to what you are missing, or does it focus on how to navigate challenges with courage, creativity and kindness? Are you feeling powerless or empowered?

Under stress, would you say you are inclined to the red, blue or calm zone?

How do I maintain or get into the Calm Zone?

First, step away from the stressor – physically if possible, and mentally. It takes practice. Our grandmother’s advice to “Count to ten before you react” was wisely given.

Secondly, in study after study, stress research over the years has pointed to the need for “a pause button”. The brain needs to go into neutral. There are many ways to induce the “relaxation response” and enter the Calm Zone. What works for one person may not for another.

Thirdly, Canadian D. Meichenbaum coined the expression “stress inoculation”. The list of stress inoculators is long. Quilting, music, meditation, journaling, writing poetry, art, walking, deep breathing, yoga. The list goes on. The essential element is that the activity is predominately quiet; it is truly a time out from a slow or accelerated pace. It is free from judgment, strain or compulsion.

What takes you to that place of quiet, to that sense that “this too shall pass”, to a confidence that you can handle life?

Why is being in the Calm Zone so important?

There are two main reasons:

The first reason is that outside of the Calm Zone, our judgment is impaired. The zone we are in influences the choices we make. For example, imagine that someone just rear ended your vehicle. Now you will be late for an important appointment! How would the responses differ depending on which zone you were in?

The second reason is that you need to be in the calm zone to experience joy.

Dr. Grant McLean, long time friend, responded to last month’s newsletter on Joy with this:

“I stopped to truly listen to the sea, and feel the peace, and let go the tensions and fatigue that were part of my life as a physician in the modern world. The joy was not out on the waves, or in the gulls that soared above on the sea breeze, or behind me in the trees, or the green hills. I found the joy inside myself. It was waiting there to be rediscovered, to be acknowledged, to be treasured. … The secret is to take precious time, now, to focus on that tiny flower, or to listen to a favourite song.”  (shared with permission)

Where does writing fit in?

Whether we write the occasional poem, pour our heart out onto the pages of a journal, are writing our memoirs or crafting letters to influence the world, writing slows us down. It takes us to the Calm Zone. When we slow down, we can listen to our inner life.

Writing is a form of deep listening.  When we listen, we quiet the mind. If we quiet the mind, our soul will speak.

 

Suggested Reading

Listening Below the Noise by Anne D. LeClaire

A personal favorite of mine, Anne LeClaire chooses two days a month for silence – for 17 years. She documents the transformations in herself and her family as a result of learning to listen to her inner life and body.

Find a Quiet Corner: Inner Peace, Anytime, Anywhere  by Nancy O’Hara

Are you unsure what activity you might help you enter the Calm Zone? If so, Finding a Quiet Corner is for you. The author offers a near endless menu of options available in our day to day lives.

Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson

“What flows through your attention sculpts your brain”. This book is an excellent starting place for understanding the need for and the pathway to the Calm Zone.

Seven Thousand Ways to Listen by Mark Nepo

The author asserts that “Listening is the doorway to everything that matters.” Every chapter ends with a “Reflective Pause” that includes a mediation, questions to discuss with others and journal questions.

8 Minute Meditation by Victor Davich

This is an easy to read guide to alternatives that might fit your busy schedule should you decide to experiment with meditation.

 

Research

  1. Smyth, J., & Helm, R. (2003). Focused expressive writing as self-help for stress and trauma. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59(2), 227-235. doi:10.1002/jclp.10144

Smyth and Helm report the value of workbooks used to guide the writing of asthma patients. They used a procedure called Focused Expressive Writing (FEW) concluding that self-administered manuals represent a promising avenue for the use of FEW as a self-help technique. A case illustration is included in the article.

  1. Elisabeth Christiana & Vryscha Novia Ningsih (2017). Effectivity of Expressive Writing Technique to Increase the Emotional Anger Management to 10th Grade Electrical Engineering Student in State Vocational High School. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 118. 9th International Conference for Science Educators and Teachers (ICSET).

This is one of numerous studies focusing on practical applications of writing beginning to appear in the international literature.

 

Writing strategy of the month

The Dialogue Strategy (December 2020)

This month’s strategy is credited to Ira Progoff who developed the intensive journal process.

The dialogue strategy involves having a conversation with some aspect of our life. For the purposes of this newsletter, a dialogue with your body is the assignment. Ask your body a sincere question. Record the question.

The strategy guidelines involve three steps:

  • Using only phrases or short sentences, list a 8-10 individual events or periods of time that capture a brief history of your body. Refer to individual events or periods of time that suggest how your body has arrived at how it is now.
  • Summarize your reflections, capturing your present relationship with your body.
  • To begin the dialogue, sit in silence, perhaps with eyes closed. Begin to feel your body as if it has a separate identity, as if it is a person in and of itself. Say “Hello” to Body and listen for its response. Continue the dialogue, simply listening to each other (recording both participants – you and your body). When the dialogue seems to have gone as far as it wishes, let it rest.

Sit quietly. Reread the dialogue. Reflect on and record your reaction to what you and your body were discussing.

Be willing to resume the dialogue if it seems that conversation could continue.

 

Photo question of the month (December 2020)

What have you locked yourself into or out of for too long?

Use the “dialogue writing strategy” to respond to this image, in writing.

Celebrating Joy

 

Joy is to fun, as the deep sea is to a puddle.

It’s a feeling inside, that can hardly be contained.

                                                            Terry Pratchett

To live a life of joy is to live a bold life.

Looking at challenge through the lens of adventure, seeing beauty in dark places, delighting in the smile of an infant, being in awe of a sunrise – this is an aliveness that many of us call joy.  Joy, like love and hope, doesn’t lend itself to being defined. Happiness, bliss, rapture, wonder, thrill, and delight are common synonyms. Joy does have a spark, a moment when time seems to stop. A moment when our whole body smiles. You might think of joy as an unexpected flash of gratitude.

 

Does joy affect our health?

Dr. Cynthia Thaik reported in HuffPost in 2014, “When you are joyful, your whole body benefits, especially your heart and mind. In fact, research shows that joyful people have less chance of having a heart attack, healthier blood pressure, lower cholesterol, weight management, and decreased stress levels.”

Joy triggers

Each of us is unique in what triggers the joy response. The challenge is to be open to joy regardless of what we are feeling, to pause for a moment to notice that special feeling.

  • Karen, a recent widow was walking on a golf course, out of season in a drizzling rain. The sky was grey. There were no golfers. The landscape was luscious green and quiet. Coming over a gentle hill, there they were – a doe and a fawn. The doe was cautious. The fawn curious. Karen knelt slowly and spoke gently. The fawn drew nearer. She wrote of that moment:

When the fawn pounced

across the carpet of green,

the feeling came

with an inner smile.

I remembered

for the first time in a long time,

the feeling of joy.

 

  • Bonnie struggled each day as she neared six year old Ryan’s room on the second floor of the cancer centre. Often, she paused to collect herself before entering to ensure that her fear didn’t seep into her son’s awareness. As she entered, Ryan wore a smile of delight, indeed of joy, on his face. His little bald head was of no concern to him. On his bedside table, lay the picture format children’s menu he had just filled out. He announced with grand enthusiasm, “Tomorrow we get fruit loops.” In that moment, Bonnie made a decision. She too would look for joy each day.

 

  • Ella, 91, made a difficult choice. It was time to move into assisted living. The move coincided with the COVID lock down. Here she was, only days into her new environment and now on virtual house arrest in her new 500 square foot  living space. Her meals were delivered to her room. It would be months before she would be allowed even a designated visitor. Yet, when her former and younger colleague would call, Ella would greet her with “It’s wonderful to hear from you.” The joy in her voice was palpable.

 

What blocks joy?

Experiencing even a few minutes of joy each day can be a challenge in this time of unprecedented chaos in our lives. What often brings us joy may be less available because of COVID 19, or joy may have slipped behind a veil of stressors that are taxing us. It is present though, if only in flashes, and only for moments.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be filled with joy. Joy requires us to pause, to insulate ourselves from the pain, physical or emotional if only for moments. Feelings of anger, resentment, fear or sadness can act as a wall through which we cannot see or touch joy.

During extra stressful times, our efforts to experience joy need to be more intentional. What wall inhibits you from experiencing joy – or of being bold in the face of adversity? What feeling might you need to confront in order to experience more joy in your life?

 

Openness to joy is a choice

There are those who have cultivated joy over their lives and seem to have a wellspring of it in reserve, who are not battered by the prevailing winds of chaos, who can unearth the specialness even in difficult moments.

Are you one of those people? Do you have one or more of those people in your life?

To be open to your joy requires a pause, a moment or more when the world falls away. In our world of busyness, we likely miss moments of joy that are readily available to us. Joy doesn’t take time out of our lives. It takes only a moment to delight in freshly squeezed orange juice, to smile back at a stranger, to watch the blue jays and squirrels bicker over the peanuts as winter sets in, to treasure a moment of sacredness, to literally smell a rose. Are you allowing yourself to pause for moments of joy? Remember joy is a gift that often takes us by surprise.

Openness to joy can include more than receiving an unexpected gift in your day. It could include kindling a moment of joy in the life of someone else.  Sending an unexpected card. Your long awaited voice on the phone call to a friend. A basket of fresh muffins left on a neighbor’s doorstep. Paying it forward at Tim Horton’s. Surprising someone else with an unanticipated kindness will bring you both joy. You will see it in their eyes. You will feel it in your heart.

 

  1. Suggested Reading
  • Canadian author, Pierre Burton truly loved to write. Most of his books were best sellers. He titled his reflection on a fifty year award winning writing career The Joy of Writing. Looking for inspiration; enjoy his witty and practical guide.
  1. Evidence
  • Why joy matters more than ever is a straightforward short article on the benefits of joy.
  • Joshua Brown and Joel Wong. (2007). How gratitude changes your brain. Greater Good Magazine: Science-based insights for a meaningful life. Brown and Wong looked at joy through the lens of gratitude. Their study demonstrates the influence of writing about gratitude.
  • Science is one form of evidence. Testimony is another. Listen to Henry Rollins attest to The joy of Writing. He attests to the fact that writing itself brings him joy and to the fact that it is there for anyone should they choose.
  1. Writing strategy of the month

Lists may seem so ordinary, so mundane. Yet, writing lists can be enormously helpful in giving our lives direction, identifying targets of gratitude and recovering memories.

This month’s theme is “joy”. This month’s writing strategy is “writing lists”. As you experiment with one of more of the lists below, notice the interaction between the theme and the list. As you write lists about joy, past, present or future, notice how you body responds? Notice how you feel if you take a moment with each item on the list. “Enjoy” your reflections on joy.

Answer any or all of the questions using lists.

What five moments of joy come to mind quickly?

What would bring you joy to write about?

What do you imagine would bring you joy that you have not yet experienced?

What photographs or images do you think capture joy?

To whom might you bring joy to today how might you do it?

What task would bring you joy today if you reframed it as a privilege, shifting from “I have to” to “I get to”?

If you were in charge of developing a “joy menu” for people in quarantine because of COVID, what would be on the menu for them to order?

If you really enjoy “lists” you might want to experiment with a journal that specifically uses “lists”. This is a link to 52 Lists for Happiness: A Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy by Moorea Seal.

We invite you to share your lists with us. We are in the process of web development that will allow readers to share with each other.

  1. Photo question of the month—optional— Use the list strategy to explore the joy in this photo. Or, use previous months strategies of story, or the pyramid strategy.

 

 

About Hope

 

 

Ask people about hope –

and they will tell you a story-

 

Scholars have not agreed on a definition of hope. Like love, it eludes definition, yet there is consensus that it is a necessary yet unique human experience. There is agreement that it is different than its cousins – faith, coping, resilience, optimism, desire or wishing.

For our purposes let’s think of hope as “ a willingness to envision a future in which we are willing to participate.”

Story Samplings

Sasha, a Russian woman in the last days of her life in a palliative care unit told me a story of the time she and her cousin were sent to a labour camp in Siberia. They rose each morning and said to each other, “Someday, we will be in America.” Then, with a broad smile on her face, she sighed and said, “And look. Here I am in America.” Her dream had come true.

Darius, a young man from the slums of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, spoke with pride as he told the story of stowing away on a ship four times and each time being returned to his native county. The fifth time his efforts eventually led to a new life.

Joe, a quadriplegic from a truck accident, with the help of a friend was able to take his son fishing. Only when he was asked by caregivers about what gave him hope did they realize he had a son who was the source of his hope.

Jack, an advanced lymphoma patient, described a bald five year old youngster pushing an intravenous pole and carrying a wooden toy. Young Tommy shuffled up to Jack’s bed, looked directly at Jack with his ocean blue eyes and asked, “Can you fix my toy?”.  Jack later shared that that was the moment his hope returned – the moment he believed he could endure the demanding side effects of his own cancer treatment.

Hope stories need not be serious or complicated. They can be simple. Watching young ducklings on their first spring swim. Remembering moments with a grandmother who shared tea with you as a child, treating you like you were her peer. Receiving  a letter that confirmed you were accepted to university. Finding a $20 bill on a park bench with no one in sight to even inquire into its owner. Seeing your first poem published. Finding a basket of fresh muffins on your steps just after you have moved into a community.

Most of us could name numerous movies that are basically hope stories – Rudy, Shindler’s List, Eight Below, The Martian, Castaway, My Left Foot. The list is extensive.  

Freedom Writers is a hope story based on the power of writing to change lives.

Not all stories are about hopes that are fulfilled. A hope story can be inspiring even when the preferred outcome doesn’t happen. In hope stories though, there is a touch of surprise. Despite the context of adversity and/or uncertainty in the end the story takes a twist. Something is easier than expected, funnier than circumstances would suggest, more possible than imagined.

 

    What is your story ?

Everyone has a hope story. It may be about their whole life or it may be about one time, event, or person that became a lesson in hope. Each aspect of our life has its own story. We have a story about being a parent, a teacher, a caregiver, a spouse. Each is made up of contributing stories. Similarly with hope. There are moments in our lives that make up our hope story. Those moments may or may not be related to times of opportunity, achievements, or adversity. Each person’s hope story is different. The characters, incidents, challenges, allies and enemies will be different. What will be similar is that universal experience we call hope.

 

     This thing called hope

What is this thing called hope? A day with it guarantees nothing. A day without it is difficult. It cannot be x-rayed. It cannot be injected with a needle. As early as 1959, Karl Menninger in his presidential address to the American Psychiatric Community pleaded with the mental health community to pay attention to the “validity of hope”.

Yet, as late at 1988, the word hope was not even a key word in the psychological or medical abstracts. There were voluminous references to depression but none for hope. In the thirty intervening years, hope studies is now a recognized area of study. Hope focused practice  is recognized as aligned with therapies that focus on peoples’ stories as key to understanding and enhancing their well-being.

 

     My experience with hope

I was privileged to be a founding member of the Hope Foundation of Alberta, now known as Hope Studies Central. It is one of the few places in the world that specifically studies hope. It has a database that contains over 4500 articles and books specific to hope. Access to the database is free.

For more than a decade, I read about hope, talked with patients about hope, witnessed how people transcended hopelessness in the context of adversity, researched hope, lectured about hope, and taught hope courses for health care providers, educators, clergy, prison inmates, high risk adolescents and university students. I can attest to the power of hope.

The scope of hope is BIG, so we will be revisiting the topic every few months. On the website under Suggested Reading you will find an additional variety of hope readings.

 

Suggested Reading

  1. Finding Hope: Ways to See Life in a Brighter Light: second edition by Ronna Jevne & James Miller

There is something mysterious about hope. You can be in dire straits and have a great deal of hope. You can have everything going your way with little or no hope. Either way, hope has a powerful effect on your life. After explaining what hope is, the authors describe twenty-two specific ideas about  how to find hope, keep and build hope in one’s personal life.  This book is not just about hope. It is an experience of hope. Insightful quotations for the ages as well as creative black and white photography enhance the text.

 

Tellwell featured Ronna as Author of the Month for April 2020 in an interview that you might enjoy reading as background to the book.

 

This recent article how to live from a place of hope speaks to the challenge of sustaining hope during   Covid19.

 

Hope often is challenged in the context of illness.  This article Hope and Illness was published on the Hope Café: Brewing optimism 24 hrs a day site.

 

The recent article Seeking-Hope reviews the mission, history, and activities about the Hope Foundation of Alberta, now known as Hope Studies Central (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

 

This link is for access to the Reference Data Base archives for Hope Studies Central

 

  1. HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act At a time by Brad Aronson.

Want a lift during Covid19 days?

One reviewer says “HumanKind is filled with uplifting stories that will inspire you”. Another says “HumanKind is a celebration of the impact of small choices to transform ourselves the lives of those around us. It offers up inspiring ways for us to make the world better, even amid injustice, tragedy and misfortune.” I say, “HumanKind  is a rich source of hope stories that invite us to see the world through the lens of hope.”

 

Evidence

Influence of reflective writing on depression in students

Behavior Medicine (2006) reported that the students in the expressive writing group showed significant lower depression symptoms at the 6 month assessment.

 

The Journal of Positive Psychology (2016). Vol. 11, No.1 reported the influence of a four week positive writing intervention. Rather than writing about difficult times, the intervention focused on writing related to strengths, positive experiences and gratitude.  The positive writing group showed a lower dysphoric mood ( despondent – unhappy, uneasy, dissatisfied), fewere worries and less rumination compared to the neutral writing group.

Writing Strategy—Story

 

     Writing a hope story exercise

Think of a setting in which there is tension, adversity, or uncertainty. It can be in the past, the present, or even the future. For a few minutes write about the context. Take the potential reader to the situation. Where are you? Who else is there? What are you seeing? Pay attention to details of your senses. Notice color, shape, time of day? What if any, smells, are there? What sounds can you hear? What is happening that is a concern? What happens that changes what is expected? What twist occurs? What is it that is funnier, easier, or possible that wasn’t evident initially.

Your stories may or may not be private. If you want to share them, send them along to Prairie Wind or share them with a friend or member of your family. Invite others to share a hope story. Experiment this week. Write or tell a hope story each day.

___________________________________

Photoquest

 

Sit before this photo for a few minutes. Just sit. Imagine that the photo has a story to tell you. Or perhaps the photo reminds you of a story. We invite you to pick up a pen your your keyboard and let yourself write the story. Let hope come into the story at some point.

Remember that there are no punctuation or grammar police.

To write or not to write?

 

There is only one point to writing. It allows you to do the impossible. … writing makes sorrow endurable, evil intelligible, justice desirable and love possible.

Roger Rosenblatt (2012). Kayak Morning.

Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of Prairie Wind Writing Centre. Whether your interest in writing is personal or professional, writing is an available, affordable, effective tool for enhancing your life.

The following short overview is a reminder of the reasons to write.

Writing supports reflecting on our lives. Our culture abounds with invitations to neglect our inner lives. The seeds of distress are everywhere in the complex world in which we live. It has been said that “if you don’t go within, you will go without.” Writing for the purpose of reflection returns us to our values, priorities and to emotional being, even in times of uncertainty. Having a toolkit for reflective writing is a mental health strategy. Every newsletter provides you with solid research and anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of reflective writing. Each newsletter reflects on a different emotion.

Writing supports helping our clients, students, families and friends. In whatever professional role you have, there is often a place for inviting our clients (and colleagues) to write. Writing can assist them in clarifying goals or feelings, or options during a difficult time. This is true not just for those of us in the mental health fields. By encouraging them to put their thoughts on paper, we are encouraging them to take a greater role in seeing a future in which they wish to participate.

In the role of an educator, being familiar with multiple writing strategies increases the creativity of assignments in this world of on-line learning. Increased motivation means increased learning.

The newsletter offers suggestions for guiding client and student writing.

Writing supports reflecting on our own practice. Many roles in our society are now fraught with additional stressors. During the COVID pandemic, the practice of almost everything has changed. What is commonly called reflective practice is the interface between our personal and our professional lives. The greater the gap between the two in terms of values and behaviors, the greater the distress. Whether you are a truck driver, a hairdresser, a physician or a counsellor, minimizing our burnout potential is important. The newsletter provides examples and strategies for maximizing career satisfaction.

Writing improves writing. The act of writing is a complex experience. It is not just developing a structure and choosing the words. With rare exception, the writing process involves a dance between the writer and the writing. Our beliefs, feelings and behaviors interact with our writing experience. Ronna explores this in her book Living Life as a Writer and in our “Your Inner Author” workshops. Exploring your strengths, needs, frustrations and delights in relation to writing frees your inner author. Whether you write the occasional poem, pour your heart out in a journal, are preparing a formal manuscript or have an ongoing project underway, having a good relationship with your inner author makes writing more meaningful and enjoyable. The newsletter provides tips on how to get to know and encourage your inner author.

Evidence: This month we chose to highlight four different areas of research. The first is work by James Pennebaker who is renown for the research that he has done or spawned based on a protocol he calls “expressive writing.” In the area of relationships, you will find a reference to a study that looked at marital relationship satisfaction and writing.  The third article explores the use of expressive writing and work place injustices. The fourth article is a sample of the large body of work in the area of health conditions. The described study looked at a writing intervention with early stage breast cancer patients.

https://prairiewindwritingcentre.ca/category/research/

Suggested reading:

From among the many books related to writing for reflective reasons, we chose a sampling. Deena Metzger’s Writing for Your Life is a favorite for using for understanding our lives. Pat Schneider’s book Writing Alone and with Others is a resource for the beginner writers and for those facilitating writing with groups. Look forward to further suggestions in each newsletter.

https://prairiewindwritingcentre.ca/category/readings/

Recurring features:

In each newsletter will include a:

writing strategy (https://prairiewindwritingcentre.ca/category/writing-strategies/and a

photograph with a question for reflection

 

Special book offer

Purchase 10 or more copies of a given book for a class or for  friends and receive a free online interactive session with Dr. Ronna Jevne, the author.

We want to hear from you: In the ensuing months we want hear about your interests and experiences with writing. We look forward to your suggestions, stories and questions. Contact Ronna with your ideas.

Invitation

 

There is only one point to writing:

It allows you to do the impossible……Writing makes Sorrow endurable, evil intelligible, Justice desirable and Love possible.

Roger Rosenblatt 2012 Kayak Morning.

Prairie Wind Writing Centre has been a dream for many years. Its time has now come. The mission is simple–to enhance well-being through the writing of any genre, aided with the imagery of photography.

We are inviting you to subscribe to our regular monthly newsletter by filling out the form at:

Subscribe to our free Newsletter 

We will not inundate you with multiple contacts. We will not share your contact information with anyone. Nor will we solicit any financial support.

Writing is an accessible, affordable, and effective way of deepening our understanding of our inner lives, our relationships, and our place in the world.

For years, we have observed the power of writing. We have seen students transform themselves; patients come to terms with their illnesses; prisoners revisit their futures; and dreams become reality.

It pleases us greatly that there is now solid evidence that supports practicing reflective writing, which was once simply a intuitive exercise.

If you have any questions, please contact us by replying to this email.

Warm regards, Ronna


Subscribe to our free Newsletter and Check out our website at prairiewindwritingcentre.ca

The Prairie Wind Writing Centre will:

  • profile/review relevant books and articles, including those written by Ronna.
  • keep you informed of upcoming events.
  • share research evidence of the power of writing.
  • provide references and resources for writing and therapeutic photography.
  • and offer you suggestions and guidelines for reflective writing.

Newsletter

Loading

Special Offers

With proof of purchase of 10 or more books, Ronna offers a free, 40 minute conference session.