Archive for July, 2015
Friday, July 31st, 2015
I’ve fond memories as a child of lost time spent doodling and colouring in colouring books. Colouring book were a regular feature in my family of origin. They would find their way into bags and the back seats of cars on our way to church on Sundays and keep us children occupied as the hours of the church service clocked up and our energies waned. Colouring blunted the boredom of the ranting church minister and I loved the focus and concentration that colouring offered and the resulting colour explosion was always delightful.
At an early age a certain kind of confidence emerged from taking a black and white illustration and becoming the curator and creator of its new colour makeover. Years later when I was mother to a young child colouring books became a staple play activity. As soon as her tiny fingers could hold a crayon and pencil securely my daughter learnt to colour. Aida would spend countless hours on our living room floor colouring away to her hearts content. And it was this same child some twenty something years later who handed me an exquisite colouring book at Christmas last year called, The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt by Johanna Basford
Turns out that Colouring books are back on the market aimed at adults in a big way.
Remembering my own memories about colouring what I loved most was the simplicity surrounding the activity. It’s a relatively cost effective activity. It requires little instruction and no one telling you what colours to use whilst it gives the child or adult permission and freedom to pick and have their way with colours they personally want to work with.
There’s something grounding and calming about colouring inside the lines but also a certain wildness and liberation when we stray outside the lines. A positive colouring experience becomes an even more enjoyable activity once you have the right tools, which are minimum: a good, solid illustration to colour in and your pack of colouring pencils, crayons or felt tips.
In 2011 I used this concept of colouring to design a coaching template designed to measure your overall satisfaction with your work and personal life. The Wheel of Life Tree Audit uses colouring to rate your levels of satisfaction across core life and work areas and then set goals to extend and improve satisfaction in key areas. I designed an activity that would engage both the right and left brains, one that would provide a colour snapshot of your life through the lens of colour. You can download the Wheel Of Life template here or the Wheel of Life Tree Playbook & Life Audit here or find a copy in my book Be Your Own Best Life Coach here
Research is now bringing to light the many benefits of colouring already known in the alternative medicine world of colour therapy. Colouring reduces stress, the activity conjures up an almost Zen like mindfulness and working with certain colours can be soothing and calming.
Colouring is kinesthetic, a creative activity that moves the body and ignites the intricate and exploratory nature of the creative mind. I like the slow, gradual build up colouring brings to the page or an illustration. I enjoy the repetitive rhythm and the gradual, slow release of energy
Personally I’m drawn to the primal nature of colouring. Before most children experiment and learn to draw, they colour. Colouring predates drawing and writing. I use colouring now as a form of stress release but also as a working meditation. In a recent blog post creativity coach Jamie Ridler wrote about the additional benefits she derives from colouring and being creative, “Don’t be surprised if a sudden moment of clarity arrives while you’re colouring, doodling or beading.”
Being a writer I sit using words all day so an activity like colouring gets me to use my hands in a different kind of way. It breaks up routine patterns and ways of thinking. It gives my mind and thoughts breathing space to go in new and different directions. It’s possible to generate hits of dopamine when colouring in the same way we get that initial surge when we land on Facebook or other forms of social media or reach for that bar of chocolate.
Have fun with colouring. Notice that colours generated onto the page can extend into colours you wear, colours you notice other people wear and becoming more aware and present to the colours alive and visible in your environment and in nature.
Crayons are my favourite colouring instruments and have a smooth, effortless like movement across the page. Pencils are great but require greater pressure and attending to so make sure you have a sharpener to hand. Also be aware that pencil colour can sometimes be faint and watery like and not as bold and robust as the colour tones of crayons.
There are many different ways to have fun with colouring. From colouring books, to collages to taking photo’s of scenes with similar colours and tones. Having a range of great colours to hand helps when colouring. Using one colour can be extremely gratifying and helps to order the mind. And it’s worth remembering that colouring just for the sake of it can be a worthwhile reward and satisfying way of passing time.
Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Foluke Taylor attended our Greece Writer’s retreat in June 2015 and took up the offer to share her experience here on the blog. It’s timely given what’s going on in Greece right now to recall the wonderful experience we had nestled into the mountainside of the great Mount Pelion for a whole week focused on our writing.
Foluke’s transformation during the week was like watching the eruption of Mount Pelion, she gave herself wholeheartedly over to her writing. Read her story in this week’s guest blog post.
Before I arrive at the writer’s retreat on Mount Pelion I think a lot about sun and sea and about how, once the morning workshops are over, I’m going to relax. I know it’s primarily a writing workshop but I refuse to feel guilty that writing isn’t at the top of my list. It’s been a tough year and I’ve survived. I deserve relaxation and that’s what I’m going to have. Once I’ve booked the trip, I develop a mantra to carry me through the weeks of waiting – Sun, sea, sleep. Sun, sea, sleep.
As the date gets nearer a handwritten card arrives from Jackee, the workshop leader. It’s decorated with butterflies. She asks me to let her know what I want from the retreat and to identify my specific writing goals. I send back my mantra (sun, sea, sleep) and because I don’t want her to think that I’m not taking this seriously, I add that I’d also be happy to write something as well. I’m careful not to say exactly what that something might be.
I give myself a pat on the back for managing expectations – for snapping some reins on those butterflies before they can get carried away. I sound cynical but know that in truth I’m just being realistic. Anyone expecting transformation in this situation is simply headed for disappointment. Transformation and disappointment are both on a long list of things that I’m way too tired for.
A few days prior to departure Jackee emails with last minute instructions and to suggest some writing practice in preparation for the retreat. My preparation involves throwing a bathing suit, sunglasses, flip flops and a couple of holiday reads into my suitcase and shaving my legs. I have my laptop with me, as a writer should, but inside I know that this is more about Netflix than anything else. I’ve yet to watch the new season of House of Cards. It’s not until I hit the departure lounge at Gatwick that I decide to pop into WH Smith and buy a notebook and pens.
Twenty four hours later and here I am, on the afternoon of day one, floating in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea, gazing up at the mountain, soaking up the sunshine as planned. Suddenly I’m not tired anymore and I can think and all I can think about is writing. The first morning workshop has left me buzzing with ideas – what I want to write, what I need to write, how excited I am about writing it and when exactly I can get started. I feel like I need to start now.
So, that dip in the water ended up being my first and last, not because it wasn’t divine – it was, totally – but because another road to recovery had opened up before me. A road called writing myself back to life.
Each morning we’d wake up to birdsong, stunning views and a nourishing al fresco breakfast. Afterwards we’d come together in our writing circle and find that Jackee – the writer’s Mary Poppins – had pulled yet more, lovingly prepared materials and thoughtful activities from her bag. Our writerly selves received stimulation, nourishment and support in abundance. Where I’d imagined that I would be reluctant to ‘work’ and craving time on the beach, I found in fact that I relished the spaces to write, reflect and share. More importantly I found that, far from adding to my weariness, the process of writing energised me until I hardly recognised myself.
I wrote more in those six days than I had in the whole of the previous year and was especially delighted (and surprised) by what I was able to produce in the 24-hour period of the retreat during which we remained in silence.
I feel very blessed to have been a part of this retreat and I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’ve made significant progress with a writing project that had been stalled for some time. It’s part of this project that I would like to share here (thanks for the invitation Jackee) in a short story/chapter titled ‘The Stain’ you will find over at my blog here https://foluketaylor.wordpress.com/short-stories/the-stain/
The writer’s retreat dates set for 2016 ( June 3rd –June 10th 2016), are already ear marked in my diary. Thank you Jackee for channelling your experience, industry, humour and wisdom into such a wonderful week. I would recommend the retreat to anyone (and everyone), but a particular shout out to people who write or who think about writing or who like me, are sometimes too tired to think or write. I’d just like to add, in case you’re wondering, that the sunshine was also glorious.
Foluke Taylor is an Independent Social worker Counsellor/Psychotherapist BACP Accredited, DipSW and prolific writer who you’ll be hearing more from in the coming months.
Contact: UK 07450 051 155
Thursday, July 9th, 2015
Fire Well: How To Fire Staff So They Thank You For It, is a new book published today by Sue Ingram. I’ve had the pleasure over the years of working with Sue in our respective roles as coaches and coach trainers.
Sue was one of my first coaches here in the UK and since then has gone on to carve out a niche in supporting and inspiring teams with sustainable tools and techniques which help in making those difficult conversations easier.
Sue has written this week’s guest blog post answering a question I posed to her about sharing with us how a journal can help with having those difficult conversations in the first place.
I’m just heading off to Sue’s book launch this evening for the new book Fire Well: How To Fire Staff Well So They Thank You published by ReThink Press which shows how difficult conversations can be easy, straightforward and generous to complete. So I’m looking forward to having an actual print copy in my hand.
In the meantime why not have a read of what Sue has to say about how journaling can make the process of having those difficult conversations easier.
Difficult conversations are tough, be that at work, at home or in our friendships. And the name does help; difficult conversations. It sets the expectation that this conversation is going to be difficult to complete and difficult to gain a positive outcome.
However, I believe they’re not difficult. Sure, they take time to plan and you need to take care in delivery, but actually they’re essential conversations to hold for the health of our relationships, self-esteem and very soul.
They’re also generous conversations to give to others as often people are in the dark about the difficulties they are contributing to and certainly cannot change and improve without someone caring enough to hold the conversation with them. You could change their life for the better in many ways. And journaling is a very valuable tool to help us say what needs to be said.
For a start, if you journal every day you can look back over your entries and notice whether a relationship is in trouble. Is there a pattern of you feeling negative and irritated whenever you meet them? Are you repeating yourself about difficulties you’re experiencing? This is a strong sign that, although no big, isolated incident has occurred, there’s something significantly wrong that needs addressing.
The next is the value of writing out exactly how you feel about the situation and the person. No-one else will read this piece so you can be very open, free and explicit in what your actual feelings are. In fact it is very important that you are. Your writing may include swear words, accusations and some very hard things that you would never directly say to any person. But it is extremely beneficial to express all of these emotions out in the safe space of your journal. From your explosion of writing you will gain three things.
- One calmness and a distance to be able to assess the situation from the outside looking in, you may learn something new or be able to join dots together.
- The second is the essential truth that needs to be communicated, just put in better and more polite language.
- And the third is a one sentence statement that sums up how you truthfully feel regarding the situation. People can dispute facts and interpretations but they can not dispute how you feel. Also if you introduce feelings into a conversation it allows the other party to share how they might be feeling which could start to explain a lot of things.
For the best chance of a positive outcome from such a conversation it is important be calm and objective throughout. And journaling will help you maintain this grounded state, continue to reflect upon your feelings, the message you want to communicate and, lastly, the most important of all, the outcome you are wanting to achieve.
For the best chances of success this should to be a positive win-win outcome for you both, even it if is to end the relationship as amicably as possible. Define this and hold this in your mind throughout the conversation and your chances of achieving such an outcome are greatly increased.
Sue Ingram has spent over 27 years working in HR and related fields. In 2000 she became one of the UK’s first Executive Coaches; she is an Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University where her workshop forms part of their International MBA program.
Her workshop, How to Fire Staff so They Thank You has been delivered to over a 1000 managers in the both the private and public sectors. Her company Converse Well was created in 2010 in order to train and support managers in managing their difficult staff.
+44 (0)7734 944515
Saturday, July 4th, 2015
Earlier this week I attended a premier showing of the new Amy Winehouse film. I had no idea of what to expect and found the film tragic and yet a moving portrayal of Amy’s short life and the bitter sweet fame and success she did not live to enjoy. What we saw on camera was Amy in both her beauty and the ravages of inner turmoil.
The film leaves you with no doubt of Amy’s talent and gift as a singer and songwriter. But the roots of her unresolved childhood wounds leave her damaged and troubled. The issues around her mental health are eluded to have taken root in childhood with the viewer learning that she was on anti-depressants from a young age.
There is no doubt that emotionally and psychologically Amy did not get the right kind of emotional and psychological support she desperately needed as her career and fame kicked in. In Amy’s case what appears to be the root cause of the pain she carries seems to have been triggered by her father’s departure from the family as a result of an affair. She becomes a rebellious, strong willed young woman who gives her mother a hard time and goes onto to have Daddy issues throughout the rest of her life.
Amy makes poor choices with the men she has relationships with echoing signs of low self-esteem, co-dependency, unresolved issues with her father and her own deep trauma. Amy is very much the tortured but gifted artist. It is hard not to love and like this fragile, vulnerable and troubled young woman. It’s all there. The emotional fractures she carries are filled with increasing amounts of drugs and alcohol.
What becomes evident throughout the film is that Amy is not dealing with her pain she is holding it off. Watching the film I remembered something I had read where the US writer Anne Lamott http://www.salon.com/writer/anne_lamott/ gives advice to a writer who was physically abused by his mother as a child. The man is still carrying the wounds of having his hands burnt on the stove as a child by his mother. He asks Lamott how can he forgive his mother who is now a frail old woman. Lammott replies, ‘Use it she tells him.’ ‘She’s old though,’ he says, ‘Her life has not been a happy one.’
Lamott advises him to write about the experience but to change the family, change where they lived, change everything except the truth of the experience that when the little boy was naughty the mother held his hand to the flame. I can’t help but think if only Amy had been able to channel her pain differently?
It’s hard to believe that her father Mitch convinced his daughter in the early days not to go into rehab. She sings about this decision here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUmZp8pR1uc Perhaps had she gone there in the early days of her growing fame we may have witnessed a different ending. I left watching the documentary feeling ambivalence about her father’s intention and how blind we can be to both our own pain and the pain of our loved ones.
I came away with deep respect and reverence for Winehouse’s song lyrics. This to me was the one place Amy attempted to begin the healing process. When signing her first record deal she tells her manager that she doesn’t write songs, she writes poems. It’s obvious that her song lyrics are deeply personal narratives charting her life experiences, the losses and the betrayals and I can’t help think if only someone had said to Amy, “Here, go on, use this journal to write it all out, the wounds, the warts and the wonders belong to the page.” Based on research that shows how keeping a journal can reduce stress, strengthen your immune system and improve moods and physical health and well-being.
Of course there might be complications for someone as famous as Winehouse keeping those words private and safe from those who surrounded her. Some of those around her may well have seized the opportunity to sell her journals to the press? And her depression may well have been too deep for words to penetrate and make a lasting impression. Who knows but nonetheless less I can’t help feel that keeping a journal would have been a good thing in the trajectory of a young life going rapidly downhill.
Young girls model themselves on artists like Winehouse and perhaps there’s still hope as recent USA market research found that 83 per cent of young women still keep a diary compared with 69 per cent in the 1990’s. The issue of mental health is a growing concern globally and here in the UK the cost of the UK society of mental health problems has been estimated at 98 million a year, greater than that of crime writes Ed Halliwell in the Be Mindful Report commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation.
I like many others ask the question whether taking drugs and alcohol halted Amy’s chances of healing? I think I know the answer. I like what Jane Fonda had to say in her Ted Talk, Life’s Third Act https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_fonda_life_s_third_act
“It’s not having experiences that make us wise, it’s reflecting on the experiences that we’ve had that make us wise. That helps us become whole, brings wisdom and authenticity. It helps us become what we might have been.”
Reading those lines and thinking about the film made me realise Amy really could have done with an older, wiser mentor who had the foresight to see into the bleakness of what she was really going through. Had she gone into rehab and committed to the difficult inner work of healing her demons she would have had a sponsor and counsellors who would have been on her side. There was a huge sense that this was a young girl left to cope emotionally on her own.
But when it comes to what would have helped Amy the answers are more complex and debatable. Perhaps the words of Graham Greene offer further food for thought who said, “Writing is a form of therapy. Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in human condition.”
After all Amy Winehouse is not the first famous artist to suffer at the ravages of mental health, alcohol and drugs, think Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin who were both the same age as Winehouse when they died. Her death was a tragedy and perhaps despite the complexity of mental health her life could have been saved for many more years to come.
The tag line for my work around journaling and therapeutic writing goes like this, Writing Changes Lives and Lives Are Changed By Writing. I know from personal experience that journaling has helped saved me big time from giving into the clutches of depression on a deeper scale. Whilst it has not saved me outright it has been a personal therapeutic activity I can use on a regular basis to self regulate my emotions and feelings.
If you have things on your mind or are finding life difficult to cope with reach out to many of the mental health organisations that exist in every area, speak to your doctor or a trusted family member or friend. And if your mental health issue is not too debilitating try keeping a journal.
You can download my free Journal Journey guidebook when you sign up on our free resources page on the website http://www.jackeeholder.com/sign-up/ It includes over seventy journal prompts and suggestions for what to write about in your journal. If you know someone experiencing mental health issues please feel free to share the free guide with them.
I’ll leave you with these final words from author and writer Laraine Herring from her book, Writing Begins With The Breath, “The writing outlasts jobs, partners and pets. The writing itself is the continuum of our lives.” http://laraineherring.com/writing-begins-with-the-breath/
Click here to watch Amy singing the haunting song, Love is a losing game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMO5Ko_77Hk