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How to write for wellbeing

by Charlie Bond

How to write for wellbeing

Local writer Sarah Salway has these tips for writing for wellbeing

Go into any bookshop or stationery shop these days and you can buy a journal for just about everything – gratitude, travel, friendships. Or maybe if something significant has happened to you, good or bad, you have been told ‘keep a journal.’  

But while I have seen first-hand the benefits of journal writing, I’m aware it’s not as easy as it can seem. I often work with people who aren’t sure how to start writing in the first place, or get stuck in writing about the same thing again and again. So here are three ways to get you into a healthy journal writing habit.  

For all these, I suggest setting yourself a time limit – you will be amazed at what you can get down in just five to ten minutes - and make sure you date each entry. It’s useful to read back and see how much has changed, or to find patterns.  

1. Start with a prompt. These can be straightforward questions or sentence stems, either general or focused around something you have on your mind. I keep a list in my journal for when I have a spare five minutes. Suggestions include: 

  • In five years time, I… 
  • What’s the most important thing for me to do right now? 
  • The thing that would make me feel better is… 
  • What am I most excited about right now?  
  • My ideal day would include…. 

2. The clue as to why an unsent letter is so valuable to write is in the name! Because you are not going to send it, you can write a letter to anything and for any occasion. Write a letter of appreciation or of anger. As well as the obvious, some people/things to write to include: a favourite teacher, a place from childhood, someone you haven’t met yet but would like to, a piece of furniture in your house, a future love, someone you see everyday but don’t speak to, even a body part you take for granted. This is your journal so surprise yourself and have fun. You can even write a letter back. Be creative - what would your feet like to say to you…!  

3. A captured moment is an attempt to catch something that you might otherwise forget. Before you start writing, shut your eyes and imagine you are watching a film of your life. What are special moments you’d like to keep? You don’t need the whole before or after, just write as if you were right there in the moment, and work through the senses – what can you hear, smell, taste, touch, see? Include as many details as possible. 

Now, one of the key steps in writing for wellbeing is to always give yourself a few lines of reflection afterwards, such as ‘when I read this, I notice…’, ‘when I read this, I’m surprised by…’ There may also be some action points you can pull out and list.  

But mostly forget the grammar police, whether you can spell or have nice handwriting. Instead, be interested in what you write and don’t be afraid to try some new things. Your journal is your new best friend, waiting for you whenever you need it, so good writing!  

Sarah Salway is an award-winning short story writer, novelist and poet. Her writing has been widely published, commissioned by BBC Radio Four, and made into short films. Sarah is trained and experienced in working with many different groups, businesses and individuals to use journal writing for personal development, and is a qualified coach. With local yoga teacher, Anna Robertshaw, she runs Mat and Page, offering regular yoga and writing workshops and retreats. Visit her website, www.sarahsalway.co.uk, for details of workshops and courses, as well as more prompts and exercises.