Why we love Life Journaling

Why we love Life Journaling

Beauty.  I recently had the privilege of leading a Life Journaling group for caregivers, held at the Silk Purse overlooking the Ambleside seawall. Several factors made it a superb 3-week series: The calming, naturally beautiful surroundings, being in a room surrounded by colourful artwork, and the diverse yet cohesive group of writers who participated with open-hearts and enthusiasm.

Grounding.  We explored how stream-of-consciousness writing can really help you find grounding in your day, allowing your mind to release thoughts and ideas that are creating restless energy inside. One participant described the ‘creative peace’ in the room as people settled down to write.

Celebration. Self-gentleness.  I encouraged people to use their creative minds without critiquing their words, and to spend a little time getting in tune with their bodies and their own pacing for the day. These are all important aspects of honouring your life stories, memories, feelings, aspirations and goals going forward.

In essence, the idea of our Journaling group was to celebrate who each person is and what shaping forces have brought them to the present, and to prompt the sharing of their voices through written stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed hearing people read their work out loud. It was powerful to see their words and ideas come together, in a very real and honest way. I felt a sense of sacred trust, respect, and camaraderie in the room; for all that each person’s presence brought to our gathering. There was an abundance of laughter, storytelling, listening, and appreciation for eachothers’ creative work. Stories of travel, family, friendship, and food filled the room with ease.

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. it means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” – Unknown

 Some resources to inspire your writing:

Julia Cameron Finding Water: The art of perseverance

Charlene Geiss and Claudia Jessup Inner Outings: Book of Exploration

Janet Conner My life pages

Natalie Goldberg Writing down the bones

 Enjoy the journey into your own mind, heart, and creative centre. When you are caregiving, taking a little time to write can refresh your energy and help you feel more grounded throughout the highs and lows.

Perhaps ask a friend or acquaintance to be your writing companion, and meet at a coffee shop to write and share your work. There is also a group called Word Whips that meets monthly on the North Shore: http://allevents.in/north%20vancouver/word-whips-the-north-shore-edition/202325769811245#

Karyn Davies

 

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How to Keep a Gratitude Journal

According to one study, the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal include:

-better sleep

-fewer symptoms of illness

-more happiness

All you have to do is at the end of the week, write 5 things (based on your experience that week) for which you are grateful. Take your time, and write one sentence for each thing.  Don’t overdo it–studies say people who journal less frequently (say once or twice a week) get more benefit than folks who journal every day.

You don’t have to buy a fancy journal–a dollar store journal will do.

If you want to explore, check out this website on keeping a gratitude journal

Happy writing!

Calm Pond

Memories & More: A Facilitator’s Reflections

In mid-December, I was asked if I would like to be a part of North Shore Community Resources’ Memories & More program. I was told that it is a ten-week program for people in the early stages of dementia and their caregivers. Memories & More was developed to “help people in the early stages of dementia to remain active and to ease the isolation of their caregivers.” I accepted the co-facilitator role with excitement and some nervousness – I had not been a part of anything like it before. What unraveled over the ten weeks felt like so much more than its initial description. It seemed to me that the program not only assisted folks in the early stages of dementia to stay active and helped the caregivers to feel less isolated, it created a sense of community.

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We were given a bright room in Silver Harbour Seniors Centre with chairs, tables, coffee, tea and cookies. The chairs were arranged in a circle and we spent most of our time together in this arrangement. There were different themes for each week – from Memories, Change and Adaptation to Humour and Music. Although the themes changed, some things were consistent. We always checked in with everyone to see how their week had been and one of us would lead the group through a relaxation exercise before moving on to anything else. We would spend some time working on and talking about a worksheet that would go in to a memory book to be taken away after the final session. I play guitar and sing and was asked if I would like to contribute some music to the group. Activities would open with a different song every week and the day would end with Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Folks were a little shy to join in at first, but by the end of the series most were singing along!

We had guest speakers visit us twice – once to offer Therapeutic Touch and another time to lead the group through Brain Gym and Laughter Yoga. Most weeks the care pairs would stay together for the two hour session, but some weeks the caregivers would separate from their partners for half an hour to give each partner a chance to talk openly about their journey and to connect with the people in the room that may have been experiencing similar situations or emotions.

Throughout the Winter/Spring session of Memories & More, participants were given an opportunity and the space to share stories, reflect, connect with other people who they felt understood what they were going through, create, sing, laugh and learn some tools to better manage the changes in their lives together. The final session featured a potluck and an opportunity to write or speak appreciation to the other members of the group. Feelings of gratitude, happiness, acceptance and kindness were widely expressed. I think it was because of these feelings that participants seemed so eager to join the follow-up group that would mostly be moderated by one another. For people caring for or being cared for by loved ones, an opportunity to connect with people in a safe, welcoming community through laughter, story-telling and creativity can have profound effects on both partners’ well-being.

Photos and words by Cassandra Van Dyck

Health & Wellness at West Van Library

With zero budget, Cathrin Campbell, Information Services Librarian (since retired) at West Vancouver Memorial Library did a great thing for readers, she created a Health & Wellness section.  Her mandate was that material should be current, no more than 5-7 years old.  Using the Dewey system to file the materials, she created what she calls “shelf talkers” , large signs for different topics, so users could browse the materials.  The recent user survey revealed that circulation was up for the Health & Wellness materials, in fact 42 % said they had used the materials.

Why not try yourself?  You can also browse the website.  Just follow the links (Research–Explore–Health & Wellness) to the Health & Wellness page, which offers many useful links.

Happy reading!

Calm Pond