Next week I will be hosting two writing for wellbeing workshops for those impacted by the devastating bushfires in NSW, Australia, just over a year ago.
If you know of anyone in the New South Wales area who has been impacted by the fires in some way, please do pass this on. Many families, businesses and other individuals are continuing to rebuild their community.
It’s a free workshop funded by the Wingecarribee Shire Council and there are still some spaces for each session.
There are two choices of dates:
Tuesday 9 February 7-9pm (AEDT)
Saturday 13 February 9am – 11am (AEDT)
We will look at poetry of rebirth, reflection and change, before creating a positive approach to goal-setting.
No writing experiences needed whatever, this workshop is not about creative writing abilities but processing your experiences and exploring how you feel using poetry and writing exercises.
I have some exciting news….plus a competition winning a Reboot workbook and wellbeing virtual festival ticket
Happy New Year everyone!
I know this year has been challenging for many of us, but as my five year old said yesterday while looking at the calendar: “Mummy, look, there’s only two days left of our lives, and then we start again”. I always like the sound of fresh starts and new beginnings, especially now, and regardless of what is going on outside and beyond, there’s always a chance to start again with inside work.
With that said, I’m very excited to tell you about a project I’ve been supporting Kim Palmer with recently. Kim is the founder of a brilliant app called Clementine. Clementine app includes hypnosis sessions to support sleep, confidence and anxiety.
I’ve had the pleasure of supporting Kim with her new workbook – Reboot. Reboot is a game-changing workbook perfect for anyone feeling bored, drained of energy or feeling unhappy with aspects of their life such as feeling stuck at home, at work, in relationships etc. If there’s something in your life that you’d like to change but you can’t put your finger on it, then this workbook is a fantastic place to start.
The Reboot Workbook covers all aspects of your life – work, sex, relationships, health, career, finances – everything.
There are six chapters of creative and practical exercises that you can complete in your own time. There is no set length of time to complete this. It’s simply designed to help you understand your needs, so you’ll be able to make decisions about what to keep in your life and what to ditch. It helps you to find more focus and clarity and you’ll be able to formulate a workable plan.
Really, it’s more of a self-guided course – in a book..
There is limited stock available but you can buy now for delivery in mid-January 2021 when they’re fresh off the press.
On New Year’s Day I will be hosting a competition on social media giving away a copy of the Reboot workbook AND a free ticket to the Reboot festival which is taking place 18th – January 28th 2021, over 8 evenings. So please do keep an eye out for that. So, more about the Reboot festival…
The Reboot festival is like the virtual version of the book and will help you to REBOOT your career, confidence, sleep, body image, love life, sex life, and more.
There are 22 kick-ass female speakers, including model and activist Nyome Nicholas-Williams, sex educator Alix Fox, and entrepreneur Meg Matthews to talk about topics important to every woman. Reboot will help you to ask for a pay rise, get to sleep faster, improve your sex life and ditch imposter syndrome, just to mention a few!
Tickets for the event give you access to all eight days, allowing you to dip in and out of the topics that interest you most, or to watch every single minute. Check out our full break-down of our day topics below:
Week One – Monday January 18th – Thursday January 21st 2020
Day One: Reboot 2021 🍊 – time to let go of 2020 and look forward with a refreshed view and vision for your 2021
Day Two: Reboot Your Career ⭐ – learn how to write a banging CV, take a great LinkedIn photo and refresh and reboot your career
Day Three: Reboot Your View Of Your Body 😌 – tune in to body acceptance, the portrayal of women’s bodies in the media and a needed “get-rid” of the designer vagina
Day Four: Reboot Your Love Life 💜 – take a dive into your dating profiles, the rules of dating and maintaining a relationship throughout lockdown
Week Two – Monday January 25th – Thursday January 28th 2020
Day Five: Reboot Your Confidence 💃 – learn how to ditch imposter syndrome, ask for the salary you deserve and discover the power of your personal brand
Day Six: Reboot Your Health – hear about all things from periods to making menopause more comfortable and the realities of egg freezing
Day Seven: Reboot Your Sleep 😴 – explore your dreams, learn facial massage for the ultimate sleep routine and how to properly unwind before bed
Day Eight: Reboot Your Sex Life 🔥 – turn up the heat to reclaim and revolutionalise your sex life
Some of our incredible speakers include:
Nyome Nicholas-Williams, Model & Activist
Meg Matthews, Founder of Meg’s Menopause
Alix Fox, Sex Educator & Broadcaster
Harriet Minter, Journalist & Broadcaster
Michelle Elman, Body Confidence Coach & Author
Maria Agvitidis, New York Matchmaker
Tiwa Ogunlesi, Confidence Coach
Ronke Lawal, Personal Brand Expert
Nichi Hodgson, Journalist & Broadcaster
Dr Shelby Harris, Sleep Hygiene expert
Lora Di Carlo, Founder of Lora Di Carlo
Christian Norman, Pinterest Expert
Lucy Chamberlain, Recruitment Specialist
Emma Kangis, Career Coach
Saskia Nelson, Photography Expert
Charly Lester, Dating Expert
Laura Vowells, Relationship Expert
Lauren Langdell, Recruitment Specialist
Lauri Loewenberg, Dream Specialist
Lauren Doherty, Relaxation Expert
Andrea Balboni, Relationship Coach,
and Kim Palmer, Founder of Clementine.
Join us and our amazing community of women to help REBOOT your life.
What is bibliotherapy and how can it support my health? I contributed to an article in this issue of Natural Health and you can find out more about how books have the power to heal. Below are some of the highlights from the article.
What is bibliotherapy?
Bibliotherapy is when you use literature – fiction, poetry and even non-fiction – to support mental health and wellbeing. The process of using bibliotherapy to heal isn’t just about the act of reading but it’s also the dialogue and reflections about your response to the text that can lead to a whole new dimension of insight.
Bibliotherapy can be used clinically alongside therapy, and can be practiced in either individual or group therapy sessions, or without the guidance of a therapist at all.
With bibliotherapy, it’s important to select the right material – the text needs to speak to both your interests and needs.
If you’re working with a bibliotherapy facilitator, the group leader needs to be a skilled listener and will need to make accurate and empathetic interpretations of the participants responses. Through literature and dialogue, the facilitator will draw out a deeper self-understanding, which can lead to healing and resolution.
What are the benefits of it?
Bibliotherapy often involves working out memories. It can help individuals in a meaningful way to deal with powerful issues and feelings that arise.
Meeting in a group can add to the healing as there’s a huge amount of potential with working with peers with this type of work.
Bibliotherapy can also lead to integration of self, it encourages more self-compassion, a boost to self-esteem and morale. It’s also a way to discover new insights, which often come into focus or awareness during the process.
Simply put, bibliotherapy offers another way in. A way to develop yourself and to deal more creatively with those things that can’t always be changed. Plus, it’s extremely cathartic – it’s a self-empowering tool that you can use throughout your life.
How can we use it in everyday life?
Other people might find it helpful to work with a writing for wellbeing facilitator, where the right creative writing materials, texts, exercises and approaches will be on hand.
However, it’s possible to still reap the benefits from bibliotherapy working independently. It’s important to hit upon the right piece of writing, book, poem or text that will give you the cathartic benefits suited to your specific needs.
A good starting point would be to write a list of all the areas in your life where you are looking for clarification, focus or healing. Say for example you struggle with putting your needs first, research books that explore this in some shape or form. For example, there’s a great book called Untamed by Glennon Doyle, which explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world, and instead dare to listen to and trust in the voice deep inside us.
The most important factor is finding a book that covers the themes, which are important to your healing process. You might also like to set yourself a loose goal to your bibliotherapy pursuits e.g. I am using bibliotherapy as a way to explore and overcome my divorce, low mood or despondency in my career.
Once you’ve hit on the right poetry collection, self-help book or novel, the rest is simple. You might like to try some journaling alongside your reading to document your reflections and observations, and feelings that come up for you. An important part of the process is reflecting and integrating the experience with your own experience.
Hypnotherapist, freelance writer and published poet with an MA in Creative Writing. Leah offers writing for wellbeing workshops online and is currently training with the International Federation of Biblio-Poetry Therapy under the supervision of world leading Poetry Therapist, psychologist and author, Dr Geri Chavis.
Finding balance is the holy grail for most of us, more so now than ever. From work/life balance to mental balance, we all know that finding equilibrium is what leads to less anxiety and stress, and more peace.
Yet as humans we sometimes find it difficult to implement this. In this article by Stylist here are 8 tips from people working in wellbeing, which suggest a few approaches to consider.
I really like the one about self-awareness and instilling boundaries. This is so important. As is understanding our motives and reasons for resisting what we know is good or beneficial for us. In psychology there is a term called “secondary-gains”. Primary gains are tied to the original cause of an issue, whereas secondary gains are the result of an issue. Secondary gains include the psychological benefits from the physical or psychological symptoms. So for example. If we suddenly remove heightened work stress yet we find that we’re still just-as-stressed, because another part of our life suddenly feels “busy”, then we might need to explore why we are drawn to “busyness” and consider whether we have a secondary gain from the act of being busy – such as being able to avoid something else that is occurring in our life e.g. does being “busy” allow you to miss certain other commitments you wish to avoid. Or else is the “busyness” a distraction from something else that needs attention and perhaps feels “too overwhelming” to look at.
In many cases, it’s likely that it’s possible to make adjustments in our lives and for us to instil balance by making some simple yet considered changes to our lifestyle. Of course, there will be busy periods during our lives, this happens, it’s when our life feels chronically busy or stressful that we need to take stock and evaluate things.
In this same Stylist article, there’s also a tip from me on the benefits of affirmations and the best time to use them. (See below.) But please do check out the full article here if you’re looking for some inspiration in relation to finding balance.
Last week I spoke to staff at the University of East Anglia about mindfulness of dreams and sleep. Initially, the talk was supposed to happen in person at the University’s Enterprise Centre – this was the plan back in January. However, due to COVID-19, the talk ended up taking place on Zoom. It was a real pleasure to speak to staff at the UEA. Thanks to everyone who took part and for all the great questions!
Finbarr Carter, UEA Student Enterprise Officer said: “Leah is a joy to work with. The lucid dreaming workshop she ran for us was amazing. She made the session so accessible, engaging and enjoyable for all. I think her extensive knowledge and experience enables her to lead with such confidence it put everyone at ease. The response was amazing and think it left everyone hungry for more”
Recently I felt very honoured to be approached by the Norwich University of Arts to speak to the students and staff about one of my favourite subjects – mindfulness of dreams and sleep.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week in May, I created a virtual talk for the Art School explaining just how incredible lucid dreaming can be to find inspiration for creative projects. Many writers, artists, film makers and creatives use lucid dreaming to inspire their work – to find out more about that and how to find inspiration using lucid dreams to support your creative projects and wellbeing, check out more on You Tube – just click the below screen shot.
I was very happy to see The Moon Lab in the Eastern Daily Press this week – a big thank you to the journalist Emma Lee who was fascinated by the subject of lucid dreaming. And many thanks to all the kind messages and replies from followers on social media. I will reply to all your booking enquiries by Monday. If you’d like to read the piece just click on the above link.
In case you missed it, here is an article I wrote for the November 2019 issue of In the Moment magazine about poetry therapy. Don’t forget, I’m running some writing therapy workshops in Norwich this spring. More here.
By Leah Larwood
In recent years creative writing, and indeed, poetry therapy has become an increasingly popular route for those looking for ways to improve their wellbeing. Yet putting pen to paper in order to process thoughts and feelings is actually an instinctive tool we learn very early on.
Over the years I’ve experimented with writing short stories, half a novel, a chapter of a memoir, a third of a screenplay and many journal entries. Yet for me, the most transformative and enriching writing form has been poetry. It’s offered a different ‘way in’, and on many occasions has channelled new awareness and insights from my psyche onto the page.
I’ve also experienced a real sense of accomplishment when writing a simple poem. Every word counts. A poem is succinct, packed with meaning. Unlike attempting a short story or a novel, it offers a faster dose of fulfillment – often it takes just a few hours to write a draft poem.
Poetry isn’t just a vehicle to express your feelings and opinions, it’s also a way to develop your voice, identity and character. In short, poetry hands you your power back, should it have ever left you.
Reading poetry is equally important too; the best poems will inspire you to reflect, dream, observe and grow. Poetry has of course experienced a revival in recent years. It’s partly thanks to modern poets such as Hollie McNish, Kate Tempest, Yrsa Daley-Ward and Rupi Kaur, who are masters (or rather, mistresses) at expressing contemporary concerns or truths.
In fact, truth telling is another reason why poetry continues to be universally loved. Briony Bax, Editor of leading poetry magazine, Ambit said: “Hollie McNish tells the truth in a way that makes us uncomfortable, she talks about the realities of living and uses her experiences to write about the caverns in our class system.”
You see, the therapeutic powers of poetry are not limited to just helping those through periods of low mood. It’s also an evocative way to be heard. Writing just a few lines of poetry can allow you to process experiences, often leading to new realisations about yourself and others. For others, it’s simply a way to work things out. Poet and Ted Hughes Award winner, Hollie McNish said:
“I’ve always written poetry. I guess at first it was confusion, or anger, or on a lighter level, humour. I liked working things out through poetry but also having a laugh too. It has certainly really helped me pick apart my thoughts on things and take my time more. As in, thinking things through, working things out more. It has also been an outlet of my honest thoughts on things, a place where I can just write for myself about whatever I want. What I then choose to share with other people comes second to that”.
Indeed writing for yourself, and no one else, is absolutely crucial. Being unedited allows you to authentically explore what maters to you. Also, by sculpting your emotions or concerns into a poem, it can give your conscious mind a holiday. It’s a great way to tap into the fountain of activity ‘beneath the iceberg’, within the subconscious mind. That’s where the ‘gold’ lies. Or as the Australian poet Les Murray describes poetry, “a zoo in which you keep your demons and angels”.
There are many other poets, myself included, who often use personal themes to explore past traumas, experiences or relationships. Poet, artist, tutor and Eric Gregory Award winner, Helen Ivory said:
“I found that using the character of Bluebeard, that famous wife-murderer (!) in my fourth collection Waiting for Bluebeard, enabled me to write about an abusive relationship I was in for eleven years. I found myself one day writing about a character called Bluebeard, which was around seven years after I had left him. Until that point I just had an amorphous dark shadow over that time. How could I be the woman living in Bluebeard’s house?
“I wrote the poems to understand how, and the poems began with my childhood and the shadowy figure of my father. In this way the writing process was extremely therapeutic for me, though I didn’t actually think that at the time. I didn’t force myself to write anything to help me organise things inside my head, but that’s what happened – I claimed my life.”
As a result, many people have connected with Helen’s poetry – her poems have enabled others to write or share their own experiences of domestic abuse too.
So what is it that makes poetry so therapeutic? Scherezade Sanchita Siobhan, psychologist and published poet said:
“Poetry’s therapeutic value is linked to its limitlessness. You can imagine yourself in newer, different places and thereby you can be transported away from the current clutch of worries or anxieties. You can create a collage for a world you wish to inhabit without being impeded by the notions of practicalities and borders.”
That was particularly true for me. I started dabbling in poetry just before I fell pregnant and then again when I started suffering from postnatal depression. As a busy and shattered new mother, I found it to be a manageable form. Writing poetry uplifted me in such a way that I was able to break through the feelings of isolation and grief by rediscovering my identify. I began to recognise myself again by communicating my reality onto the page. Sometimes this was executed with some ambiguity to the reader, which provided a ‘safe space’ where needed.
During those hazy mornings and difficult nights, what I was scribbling onto scraps of paper, in between feeds, wasn’t poetry. Much of my therapeutic writing did later transform into poems, but in those early days, words were fragments from my mind looking to escape. I captured all the dark thoughts, the things I couldn’t share with anyone. In fact, it was these most challenging times that brought a wellspring of inspiration. The page was a place I could go to make sense of things. Often, I’d end up finding missing pieces of the jigsaw – writing things I had no idea I was feeling or thinking.
Interestingly, I’ve recently discovered that there are specific types of poems you can explore, depending on how you are feeling. Psychologist, Scherezade Sanchita Siobhan added:
“Poems come in many different shapes and sizes. I have used haibun as a format for clients who have debilitating anxieties or OCD as part of their journaling practice. Elegies can be read and written to comfort one in times of grief or loss. There is a sense of companionship I derive from having read a poem that mirrors my current state of being. This can be true for others as well.”
However, I’m a big believer that you don’t have to fully understand technique or form to be able to write a poem or benefit from poetry therapy. Poets and teachers may argue that there is a great deal that can, and must be learned about form. With poetry therapy, what’s important is the process of writing, not the outcome.
Luckily, these days there are many opportunities to explore poetry seriously, for fun or as a form of creative therapy. There are also countless magazines, workshops, online courses, poetry schools, masters programmes, retreats, mentors, grants, competitions and regional 1:1 poetry clinics to choose from.
The most important thing to remember is to just write, from wherever is calling. Remain close to what matters to you, write free but stay true, and let the process unfold without overthinking it.
Must Read: Poetry Therapy Top Pick
William Sieghart has just launched a new book on the heels of his best-selling anthology, The Poetry Pharmacy. Poetry saved William’s sanity as an unhappy child and it became the thing he shared when he founded the National Poetry Day and the Forward Prizes for Poetry.His second self-help book, The Poetry Pharmacy Returns, is designed around modern anxieties, with poems prescribed to ease the mind. Themes include overthinking, pushy parenting, anxieties and insecurities, romantic exhaustion, misogyny and political apathy. From William Wordsworth and Robert Frost to Wendy Cope and Kate Tempest, The Poetry Pharmacy Returns is a collection from which to draw solace and strength.
I love anything to do with the subconscious mind and dreams. Though my interest in hypnotherapy really began when I became pregnant. It’s true that for some, hypnosis feels shrouded in mystery. So I thought, I need to blog about this to show just how helpful it can be.
What is hypnosis?
My favourite explanation of hypnosis is that it’s simply a guided meditation, it’s a completely natural state that we encounter many many times throughout an average day. The main difference is that, the majority of us don’t know the tools to tap into the full potential of this state of consciousness. If you practise meditation, yoga, lucid dreaming, mindfulness and reiki these are all obvious ways of evoking the state of hypnosis. We often pass in and out of hypnosis during the shower, driving our cars, walking the dog, running, as we fall asleep and as we wake up.
Hypnosis isn’t when we are asleep; it’s an altered state of consciousness. It’s when the conscious mind is so relaxed, the subconscious mind becomes accessible. Everything we’ve learnt is stored in our unconscious and when in a state of hypnosis, it’s possible to tap into the goldmine of your subconscious to change patterns. The hypnotherapist is simply the guide. It’s the individual receiving hypnosis, who has the biggest impact on the degree of change they experience. Largely through the strength of their motivation and intent.
It’s then about using a series of techniques to tap into the individual’s highest potential. For hypnotherapy to work, it’s crucial that you’re relaxed. Hypnotherapy is about focusing your attention, to maximise your responsiveness to suggestion in order to manifest positive change, to help change patterns, behaviours and your psychological state.
How does it work?
Daydreaming is the first of the levels in a trance state. Beta is the waking state, where we are fully conscious, logical and make decisions whereas alpha is known as a creative state – full of imagination. Theta can be a dream state and delta is where deep sleep occurs. Alpha and Theta are the states when we are the most susceptible to hypnosis, where behaviour modification will occur.
It seems Hypnosis is simply about being in a deep-enough state of relaxation to access the subconscious and affect positive change.
What do you experience?
When in the hypnosis state, both your conscious and subconscious mind usually enter into the alpha state, a relaxed dream-like state which allows these two parts to communicate. We don’t want one or both states to fall into an unconscious sleep but for the two to communicate.
It seems everyone is different in terms of what they experience during hypnosis. In terms of the psychological and physical aspects, sensations and overall experience. Some people are fully aware of everything going on, others feel sleepy yet still aware and others will do into a deep trance-like state, where they wake from the hypnosis with no recollection. Regardless of whether you go into a deep trance or a light stage of hypnosis, suggestions will still be effective.
What happens if you stay in hypnosis?
If you enter hypnosis and were to remain in a trance – with no hypnotic suggestions or further guidance – you would either simply fall asleep then wake from a pleasant nap or return to full consciousness on your own.
How can hypnosis help?
Hypnosis can be used to produce anaesthesia in the body, which can help with dentist appointments for example. It’s great for anxiety, phobias, helping you to stop smoking, drinking, over-eating. It can improve sleep, reduce stress and control pain. It can even help control bleeding and the heart rate! So it seems that the hypnosis state, which seems very focused, can enable you to powerfully remove your attention (and your mind) from psychical pain, taking you to a calm, peaceful, pain-free space instead.
Have you had any experiences of hypnotherapy? What did you have it for? How did you feel during the session and has it helped you to change any unhelpful patterns?
I made my first poppy tincture last summer and it was a success!
I harvested the petals last June, made a tincture a couple of weeks later and it’s been sitting on a dusty shelf in my kitchen for a while. I’ve literally only started using it recently since having a bout of insomnia. Apart from one particularly bad night, it’s worked every time. Now that poppy season is upon us, I thought I’d blog about it.
I’ve always been a big sleeper, as humans we all differ. I need a minimum of 8 hours and to feel normal I need around 9 – 10 hours a night. To feel on top of the world I need 11. I know, mad right? But it’s not a total waste of life, because I’m a lucid dreamer. But that’s another blog post.
However, being a Mum of a four year old, I only receive 9 hours sleep perhaps once a week or fortnight if I’m lucky. My average is around seven. As a result, I have had bouts of insomnia in anticipation of limited sleep, specifically difficulty getting off to sleep. Hence my exploration of poppy tincture!
Not only is it good for aiding sleep, it’s also…
Good for: Nervous digestion, irritable bowel, headaches, over-excitability, anxiety and nervousness.
Available: Flowers and seeds are used, harvested in summer.
Habitat: Arable land and other disturbed ground.
To make poppy tincture you need the common red poppy (papaver rheas) which is pictured above, and not to be confused with the opium poppy, pictured below, which has a much thicker stem, is taller and generally grander in appearance, and has grey-green leaves. The opium poppy flowers are usually lilac with darker centres, although we also have red opium poppies growing in our garden. So avoid this variety, it should be obvious but if in doubt look into it thoroughly. The opium poppy has a dangerous reputation because of its hallucinogenic and potentially harmful effects.
Apart from the red poppies pictured in the left-hand pic, all the other poppies in the above ’tiles’ are opium poppies: the lilac ones you see dotted around in the left pic, and also the red poppies top-right and bottom-left pics (above). Their stems are thicker, it feels as though you could snap them.
Just look out for the common red poppy, which is the one that grows in abundance in wastelands, fields and gardens. It’s stem is very thin and fuzzy, with paper thin silk petals. Though just be mindful that the opium poppies can grow next to the common red ones, as shown in the left had pic above.
It’s important with herbalism and making tinctures that you are certain that you’ve selected the correct plant. Always check with a herbalist if unsure. There are lots of identification books out there. And if you have any concerns or other health conditions it’s always best to seek advice from your GP first.
How to Prepare Poppy Tincture
It’s really easy to make! Simply fill a jar with fresh red poppy petals, then top it up with vodka. Shake well and add more vodka if needed to fill the jar. Store in a cool dark place like a cupboard for two weeks. Strain and bottle.
This tincture is very warming and is better for treating pain than poppy glycerite because its more rapidly absorbed by the body. It will keep for a couple of years.
Dosage: Start with half a teaspoon at bedtime and monitor effects before considering increasing to one teaspoon.
You can also make a glycerite with poppy petals, which is better for children, just buy a food grade glycerite and add 60% glycerite to 40% water. Stir well and place on a windowsill or somewhere sunny. Shake or stir the contents every day. Once the petals have faded white you can remove them and add fresh ones until you have a rich deep colour. It will keep for a year.
In addition to the other benefits already mentioned, the glycerite is also good for irritable coughs.
Disclaimer: It’s important with herbalism and making tinctures that you are certain that you’ve selected the correct plant. Always check with a herbalist if unsure. There are lots of identification books out there. And if you have any concerns or other health conditions it’s always best to seek advice from your GP first.