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Medicinal journaling

Writing through the winter blues

I had a case of the blues a few weeks ago and it wasn’t until I remembered to write about it, in all it’s gory glory, that I felt better. I let myself have a marvellous rant. A really indulgent moan and groan, which is what I call, ‘medicinal journaling.’ I immediately felt better; viscerally, emotionally, holistically.


Not being OK is OK

This really isn’t about indulging in a pity party, which ironically is what comes to pass if I don’t allow myself to get ‘it’ all out. It’s so important - at least for me - to let myself ‘go there.’ Like a lot of you, growing up with the message that, ‘not being OK,’ was not OK, was well, not OK. This is why giving myself this permission is so very powerful. I’m not just writing, I’m allowing myself to not be OK, to be honest. I’m helping myself and taking care of myself.


The three W’s: Water - Write - Walk

How had I forgotten this? I even have a model I created to deal with the onset of a low mood - the ‘Three W’s.’ Water - Walk - Write. I ask myself, have I done these three things today, and if not - almost without fail - completing all three will revive my spirits and lift my mood.


The thing is, I have been writing, but I’ve been focusing on what success looks like and means to me. It’s all very lovely and positive, but I’ve neglected the other stuff, and there’s always other stuff.


None of what I wrote surprised me particularly, but seeing it all on the page helped tremendously. A reminder that it’s just something I’m experiencing and that it will pass, as well as the act of splurging. But if I’m really honest, I wasn’t thinking this at the time, I just felt better for having shifted it all. Like I’d let a big breath out that I’d been holding onto.


Relationship with myself

I can be so out of touch with my emotions. Anger and sadness seem to interchange at a pace I can’t keep up with. Writing has helped me to discover that one is often lurking behind the other. My relationship with myself is all the stronger for it and both sadness and anger have a way to let me know they’re there and need my attention.


A prompt for you if you need to get some ‘stuff’ out

As always, I want to recommend prompts that I have used personally rather than presenting a nice set of instructions that are purely hypothetical. On this occasion, it’s just one prompt and it’s pretty simple.


Prompt: I feel…




Prompt: I feel…


You can approach this as a list, repeating ‘I feel…’ each time or just splurge from those two words and get it all out. Allow yourself to get petty, indignant, judgemental, unkind even. Get it all out and it will be ‘out’ of you and on the page. I’m not encouraging you to actively be judgemental or unkind, but we are triggered into these reactions left, right and centre and there’s no point denying them.


Forgive yourself, we all do it, it’s human-nature. You can even laugh at yourself with kindness for your sometimes over-dramatic response to things - I do this alot. Then, having cleared the way, you’re more likely to be able to focus on the good, the lovely, the little things that make you happy. You will also see if there’s anything glaring that needs your attention or if there’s something it would be helpful to reframe so you can let it go more easily. I know, easier said than done, but writing will help.


Taking it further


The blue Chinese lucky cat

I was lucky enough to do some writing with the lovely gang who come to my Write for your Life, Creative group journaling workshops directly after my splurge. If we’re a small enough number it’s easy for me to take part. I had us pick an object that is one solid colour and then write about that colour. I chose blue. A blue china Chinese cat or buddha - my image remained unclear but the colour was. It actually made me feel lovely and safe writing about the blue - something writing about colours often does. I then had us write as if we were the object, what did we have to say, how did we feel, anything we felt compelled to share as the object. I scribbled away with the others, and eventually the China object sort of exploded itself and I wrote about the relief I felt at it’s release. I realised - and it’s not always this obvious - that my mood had shifted and that the ‘blue’ I was feeling was alleviated at that moment.


You can’t count on these things happening in writing, but sometimes these images just come and I believe it’s a kind of manifestation of the internal process. The china object being me and that I could smash out of it’s solid matter constraints and once again feel free. Truly amazing. If you want to take your writing further you could follow this process and see where it takes you.

  1. Pick an object that has a solid colour - it really could be anything

  2. Now write about the colour only. Describe it - use your senses if need be

  3. Now write as if you are the object - what do you want to say?

Take care of yourself

With all these exercises, and really this applies to life in general, take care of yourself. Whatever you’re writing about can prompt memories and feelings to pop up. This can be amazing, but sometimes the feelings are more unwelcome and you may want some support. What’s great about writing is that you can actually use writing to self-soothe by writing about the feeling itself. Describe it; where is it in your body, what texture, colour, shape etc is it. This has definitely worked for me in the past so is one option.


Help is at hand

However, you may just need some support from another human. Do you know who you’d go to if you were upset; a friend, family member, or someone in your community? It might be a silly question, but alot of us don’t ask for help at all so it may give you pause to think about this. If you don’t have someone, or even if you do and you’d like to speak to someone impartial, there’s a link below detailing hundreds of helplines for many different things - literally everything you can imagine. These helplines are full of lovely people who have been trained to listen to you and make you feel you’re not alone, along with giving you practical advice where necessary. These people are likely to have been where you are, especially if it’s a more focused helpline. So use it, we’re all in this thing called ‘life’ together. It’s not easy and we can’t do it alone. Lecture over.


Good luck with your writing! I love to hear how you've got on with the prompts.


If you’d like to hear more about how I can help you or your organisation with well-being, building teams, exploring and achieving goals, generating ideas and more, give me a shout at cpsdayoff@gmail.com.


Help and support

Life can be hard. You are not alone. Be kind to yourself. Look after yourself. Ask for help.


Here is the 10 Keys to happier living chart, created by ‘Action for Happiness' https://www.actionforhappiness.org/10-keys and advocated by Mental Health First Aid England amongst others. Anyone who has ever looked into well-being, resilience, good mental health etc., will see that this is a great summary of all the advice in these areas. What I love most is that writing really can cover off most of these, especially if it’s done with other people. To find out more about my Creative group journaling sessions, click here.


If you ever need some support around a particular topic, this list of helplines is amazing - there is a helpline specialising in every area you can imagine, and more: Helplines.org https://www.helplines.org/helplines/


And don’t forget the Samaritans. If you’re struggling with your feelings and don’t have support - whatever your experience, please call them: 116 123 - 24/7 - 7 days a week 365 days a year. Or email to chat to someone online: jo@samaritans.org


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