Creative writing for your wellbeing

Francesca Baker leading the workshop Image: Sophie Spence

The university was pleased to host Francesca Baker, creator of the blog ‘And So She Thinks’, this Thursday 16th November, for a workshop aimed at exploring the power of words to affect positive change in our mood and wellbeing.

“The biggest barrier to progress is our own inner critic and negative voice”

Francesca Baker, author of ‘And So She Thinks’

Ms Baker, who is involved in outreach for the wellbeing association Lapidus, advocates expressive writing as a cathartic process proven to have not only mental but also physical benefits.

The evidence for this is grounded in studies by the likes of James W. Pennebaker, eminent social psychologist and pioneer of writing therapy who discovered a positive correlation between the process of writing and an improvement in the immune function of patients suffering from physical illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis.

To begin the workshop, Francesca addressed five key steps towards positive wellbeing: to keep learning, connect, take notice, be active, and to give. On this premise, attendants were led through a series of activities designed to work towards these goals and the process of self-actualisation.

This included a visualisation technique for defusing unwanted negative thoughts, in which you envisage yourself as the driver of a ‘mind-bus’ and imagine your negative thoughts as passengers riding this bus with you. You then conceptualise a dialogue between driver and a passenger, the final outcome being that you have a concrete image of these different sides of yourself and understand how they might come into conflict.

Francesca revealed that it was her own experience with self-discovery and reflection that drew her towards wanting to share some of these techniques with others, after finding solace in writing during a tough time in her life:

“I’ve always done loads of writing, and being in hospital for quite a long period I definitely found therapy in keeping a journal […] I’d recommend people get themselves a journal and every evening write down what made them feel good, what challenged them, and what they hope for tomorrow.”

Winter can be a trying time for all of us, both physically and emotionally, so what better opportunity to get the creative juices flowing? For those not feeling too imaginative, Francesca suggests that something as simple as putting pen to paper is a start:

“The biggest barrier to progress is our own inner critic and negative voice, so the more you can just let words flow uncensored, the better.”

Those who would like to see more of Francesca’s work can visit her blog at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

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