More About Writing (and changing) our Life Narratives

An article in today’s Washington Post explains how writing down our “life narratives” can be the first step in changing the parts of those narratives we wish were different.  For example, if you’re always telling yourself that you can’t see a project to completion, try creating a story about yourself where that isn’t the outcome.  Quoting from ‘Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,’ written by University of Virginia psychology professor Timothy D. Wilson, the article’s author writes:

In the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, “small edits can lead to lasting change.”

There are some interesting exercises at the end of the article to help get you started.  Check it out!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/03/03/how-writing-can-help-you-reframe-your-life-story-and-create-a-happy-ending/?tid=sm_tw

Journaling: Good for your health!

The benefits of journaling seem to be in the news more and more these days.  Recently, I saw this piece describing some of the physical health benefits to getting those thoughts out of your head and down on paper (or computer screen):

http://www.fastcompany.com/3041487/body-week/8-tips-to-more-effective-journaling-for-health?partner=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner

According to Dr. James Pennebaker, a psychologist and leading expert in the field of journaling, research studies have shown that journaling strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes and is associated with drops in depression, anxiety, and increases in positive mood, social engagement, and quality of close relationships.  The article quotes him as follows:

“We know from multiple studies that there are enhancements in immune function, drops in blood pressure, improvements in sleep, and drops in other markers of stress … Other studies find faster wound healing, greater mobility among people with arthritis, and the list goes on.”

If you’re interested in learning journaling techniques that could help you feel better physically as well as emotionally, sign up for my next Journal to the Self workshop the weekend of March 13-15 at the beautiful Cacapon Resort State Park in Berkeley Springs, WV.

See https://annehbarney.com/journaling-workshops/ to register for the next session!

Scientific Research Shows the Power of Writing!

In the January 19 edition of her Well blog in the New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope describes some of the research that shows the benefits of writing about ourselves.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/19/writing-your-way-to-happiness/?action=click&contentCollection=Pro%20Football&module=MostEmailed&version=Full%C2%AEion=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

In particular, she mentions studies about writing and then re-writing what is called our “personal narrative.”  How others perceive us — or, how we think others perceive us — can strongly influence how we perceive ourselves.  Writing those perceptions down and then editing them can help us alter our behaviors.

Were you the one in the family who “always had a bad temper?”  Did co-workers at a job label you someone with a thin skin?  Are you known among your friends as a whiner?  How have these perceptions held you back?  How have you used them as excuses?  And what would happen if you no longer claimed them?

Many of the exercises I teach in my Journal to the Self workshop can help you identify the false perceptions you have allowed to become ingrained in your personal narrative, and how to eliminate them.  See https://annehbarney.com/journaling-workshops/ to register for the next session!

My next Journal to the Self workshop session is Scheduled!

I was hoping to have one in January to help everyone whose New Year’s resolutions included “START JOURNALING.”  But the next available weekend at the Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs, WV is March 13-15, 2015.  I’m going to try and find another location for a January date, so watch this space!  In the meantime, if you’d like to register for the March session, go to the Journaling Workshop tab and pay using PayPal.

Journaling to Spark Your Creativity

The following poem was sparked by one word – origami – which eventually became the title. One morning, I sat down to write in my journal with no great thoughts or troubles on my mind. Instead, I started writing about a special gift I had gotten for my birthday. My very dear friend and fiber artist Lyn McCormick (www.downwarddogfibers.com) had remembered that I once told her my favorite Christmas present in elementary school had been an origami kit. What else did she do but surprise me with one?  So now, following in the instruction book, I have begun practicing the art of origami, developing the skill and precision needed to make each paper sculpture.

Journaling offers many ways to practice being creative at whatever your art form is. In the Journal to the Self workshop I’ll be teaching in November, you’ll learn 18 journaling techniques to help you discover what’s bubbling about in your subconscious mind. You’ll practice seeing things from different perspectives, and make new connections that can serve as the spark for a painting, a fabric design, a photograph, a poem …

More often than not, a successful poem is the result of writing what at first might seem obvious (origami is indeed “all about the folds and creases”) and keeping pen to paper until something a little less obvious appears. A little like origami itself, given you start with a flat sheet of paper and keep folding and creasing until it becomes a crane, a frog, a chrysanthemum. My poem started with the word origami and ended up being a reflection on something else entirely.

Origami

It is all about the folds and creases.

Each one carefully chosen and executed,

each one a step

in a set of precise instructions.

The crane: a symbol

of longevity,

the rabbit: fertility, rebirth.

Travelers carry the frog for safety,

while the llama represents

endurance in difficult times.

I too show signs

of where I’ve been

folded and creased.

Though some seem to have been done

too quickly,

a fold

and then another,

right beside it,

as if the first were a mistake.

Here and there are valley folds,

a squash fold,

inside and outside reverse folds.

The overall design

is not yet done,

perhaps not even determined.

There are more folds and creases

to be made.

I symbolize

a work in progress.

This poem may not be copied, reprinted or redistributed without prior written approval from the author.

Before the Holidays Arrive


With fall arriving September 22nd, it will be “the holiday season” before we know it.  Plenty of words have been written about not letting the holidays turn into stressful events that we can’t wait to be over.  Words about coping with grief when family and friends aren’t around to celebrate, or disappointment when expectations for a happy occasion aren’t met.  Reading all these words can be helpful, but WRITING about it all can help even more!

Here’s where journaling comes in.  There are journal techniques that will help you plan your time to make the holiday season go more smoothly.  Using others, you’ll gain the freedom to express some of those emotions that you’d rather not share with others.  At least one of the 18 different methods you’ll learn will help you understand a little better why you feel the way you do when those first turkey and pilgrim hat decorations begin showing up at the grocery store.

Sign up for a weekend-long Journal to the Self retreat at Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs, WV November 14-16.  Located at the base of Cacapon Mountain, the highest mountain in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, the State Park is offering discounted accommodations for the 12-hour workshop.  For more information and to register, click here.