The Moon Lab has reached New South Wales!

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.

Email for more: communityrecovery@wsc.nsw.gov.au

Reboot Your 2021

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.

For purchase in the UK only (for now)

https://reboot.clementineapp.com/handbook

Competition

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…

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. 

Ticket price – £20

Natural Health: The Power of Prose

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.

Leah Larwood
http://www.themoonlab.net

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.

8 ways to find balance

The Moon Lab is in Stylist this week!

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.

Wellbeing Wednesdays: University of East Anglia

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”

Creative Dreamers: Norwich University of Arts

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.

Therapeutic Powers of Writing Poetry

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.

Toast: A Guided Meditation

Buttery toast. One of life’s simple pleasures. But how many of us really taste everything when we eat? Not just when we’re eating toast but with anything we consume. I try to eat my food mindfully when I can – although that’s easier said than done with a small toddler waving spoons of mashed potato around – but when I do have a meal to myself, I try to savour every moment, observe the colour, texture and taste, slowly and with full awareness. (Well, when I remember.)

I always think fondly of the delicious vegan food from the 10-day silent retreat in Dharamshala a few years ago, not just because the food was full of rich Indian flavours but because at every meal time, with no distractions, no talking, no iPhones, no television, your full attention was spent on each mouthful – just you and your plate.

Last week, my new yoga teacher read the following guided meditation during relaxation at the end of the class and I was keen to share it with you. Not only did I leave the class more focused than before but all I could think about for the next 24 hours was buying a loaf of my favourite sourdough bread from my local baker. (Ha! It worked on two levels.)

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Mindful Toast

If you feel like giving this simple meditation a try then simply have a read and then the next time you make some toast bear in mind what you’ve read below. You could also ask someone to read it to you whilst you sit with your eyes closed somewhere peaceful.

The idea is to pay attention to what is happening right here and now, to be fully present during everyday experiences and extract yourself from the dreamlike stage our mind wonders in.

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Artist: Mia Charro

Toast: A Meditation

Toast a piece of bread and as it’s cooking, savour the distinctive aroma of white or brown, ready-sliced or crusty, seeded or unseeded. Note any happy mental associations that arise. Spread the toast with butter, Marmalade or whatever takes your fancy, listening to the rasp of the knife and appraising the texture of the toasted bread as you do so. Notice and accept any frustrations as they arise in your mind. Perhaps the butter is straight out of the refrigerator and difficult to spread? Perhaps some sticky marmalade has found its way onto your fingers?

When the toast is ready to eat, look at it as if you had never seen a piece of toast before. Notice the fine structure of the bread still visible around the edges where the spread hasn’t reached, the difference in colouring and texture compared with the crust, the smoothness or runniness of the butter, the glossiness of the marmalade, its contours on the bread, its colouration and constituents. Maybe there are fine strips or chunks of orange rind, tiny air bubbles, flecks of darker colour. None of this is beneath your attention.

Sniff the toast and marmalade. Take a bite. Observe how the jaws, tongue and salivary glands immediately go to work of their own accord. Don’t try to stop them or slow them down, just note the crunch of each bite and the accompanying sounds inside your head. Now that you are actually paying attention, it might be surprising how loud these sounds are. Notice the changing texture of the food in your mouth as the teeth grind it down and saliva dissolved it. Give your full attention to the sharp acidity and sweetness of the orange, the oily butteriness of the butter, the butty toastiness of the toast.

Try all the fully automated movements of the tongue, jaws and lips as you chew and finally swallow. Notice the unfolding of all these behaviours as they happen, the almost unstoppable motivation to take another bite, and then another. All your impressions are valid, both the positive and negative. You may discover that you are enjoying the toast a whole lot more than if you’d just wolfed it down without thinking. Or perhaps you find the whole experience slightly disappointing. Maybe the toast is cold and chewy, the marmalade too sweet? There may be bitter, burned bits.

Accept it all with equanimity. This is simply how the toast is.

The above meditation was taken from the book Siddhartha’s Brain – The Science of Meditation, Mindfulness and Enlightenment by James Kingsland. 

And if you’re reading, Hester – thanks for sharing this!

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Unicorn Toast

The Lady magazine: Top 10 Tips for Meditation

This week I wrote my second article for the fabulous, The Lady magazine. You can read the full article at the end of this post. But first, here’s a quick intro:

 

Meditation vs. Mindfulness

In short, meditation (or mindfulness) is simple tool that will change your life for the better. It’s about bringing more awareness to our experience which enables us to see how we can sometimes make ourselves suffer unnecessarily. Seeing that enables us to make changes.

Meditation was taught by the Buddha and although it is something that’s taught as part of a spiritual practise, mindfulness is taught in secular contexts. In fact, in recent years the NHS has adopted mindfulness as an approach to be used within its mental health trusts across the UK.

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Who is it for?  

Not only can mindfulness help your average person (what’s average? I’m not, are you?) with general wellbeing and boost happiness but it can help with…

  • Those suffering with chronic pain and other psychical long-term health conditions and it can help to
  • Reduce stress and also prevent depression relapse
  • Prevent relapse into alcohol and/or drug use for those in recovery
  • In childbirth and parenting
  • In prisons and in schools
  • The work environment
  • Eating disorders
  • To enhance performance in sport
  • For victims of trauma

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Mindfulness: The Benefits

There are heaps of initial benefits but also so many others that have a knock-on effect. Things like:

  1. Increased mental clarity
  2. Self-control
  3. Objectivity
  4. Equanimity
  5. Improved concentration
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Ability to be more flexible
  8. Acceptance
  9. Ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion

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Top 10 Tips for Meditation

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You can read the full article here:

The Lady magazine 

 

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