The latest estimates from the HSE show that cases of work related stress have significantly increased by 224,000 since last year. The cause cited?
- tight deadlines
- poor management
The statistics make grim reading. More than ever, creating the optimum conditions for wellbeing, an environment for employees to flourish rather than flounder, is a critical component of HR.
Writing for wellbeing is an opportunity to think beyond the standard parameters of your existing wellbeing strategy, augmenting your current provision in a more creative way.
Already well established in the States, writing for wellbeing is slowly garnering popularity in the UK. An increasing body of research has demonstrated the power of words upon wellbeing (and no, that doesn’t include the report you’ve just written that is sitting on your desk). We’re talking creative, expressive writing rather than the perfunctory facts and figures kind.
If you regularly journal you’ll already know that writing can be powerful, but it also has a meditative effect upon our busy minds. Let’s take a look at the evidence. Writing has been linked to a whole host of physical and cognitive health benefits;
- Reduction in blood pressure
- Lowering of depressive symptoms
- Reduced rumination
- A decrease in anxiety
- Restructuring of cognitions related to stressors
But what does this mean for workplace wellbeing?
Here’s what the evidence suggests so far. Research has demonstrated that workplace writing for wellbeing sessions result in;
- Reduced levels of stress
- Fewer stress related GP visits
- Improved mood
- Staff recover more successfully from traumatic events
- Greater psychological wellbeing
- Quicker re-employment after redundancy
- Fewer days lost to sickness, absenteeism and presenteeism
- Improved working memory
- Increased state of ‘Flow’ or optimum performance
- Strengthened immune system
- Improved creativity and innovation
- Increased emotional intelligence
- Increased wellbeing
- Build stress management capacity
- Improved confidence
- Increased focus
That’s quite a return on investment for 10 to 15 minutes a day.
A typical session
The good news is that you don’t have to be the next Tolstoy or J K Rowling to reap the benefits of writing. Courses typically last for around an hour, creating a safe space for everyone from complete beginner to more experienced writers. The exercise, usually themed, is led by a facilitator.
Reassuringly, there’s no requirement to share what you produce in the sessions or a grammatical critique of your efforts.
What can you do right now to introduce writing for wellbeing into your day? If you want to try your hand at writing for wellbeing, here are two practices you can test drive yourself:
Keep a journal. Make time each day to journal about whatever is important to you. Commit to 10 minutes and go wherever the muse takes you. Try not to self censor or over think what you’re going to write, remember it’s your journal and for your eyes only.
There’s increasing research to suggest that journalling provides improved leadership insight resulting in greater clarity of thinking and better decision making. It will also provide a space for you to let off steam, gather ideas, clear your mind, recognise habitual cognitive patterns and gain personal insight.
Connect to your authentic self
Brene Brown describes authenticity as;
“The daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
Set time aside to ‘check in’ with how you are feeling. Are you able to sum it up in one word? Good, you’re building self awareness as you identify your current state. Stay with that state without judging it.
Now take five minutes and without censoring yourself, expand upon that word. Don’t worry about style, spelling or grammar. Let go of your inner critic and just go for it. Unleash your creativity.
Take a look at what you’ve written. What does it tell you about how you really feel? Writing for ourselves in this way can tell us a lot about ourselves. Perhaps something you’ve written resonates or provides an insight into some aspect of your day? your life? or a project you are working on?
Turn down the volume on the constant chatter, press pause on workplace pressures and tune in to your authentic self. This exercise will help to ground you creating a mindful space for you to reflect and focus before you continue with your day.
About Gill Thackray
Gill Thackray is a business psychologist, coach, lecturer, writer, mindfulness teacher and regular conference speaker.
Gill has successfully worked with hundreds of organizations to improve performance, innovation and strategy over the last twenty years. In that time Gill has supported a wide variety of organizations in their quest for success, ranging from the likes of global organisations (KPMG, Deloitte, United Nations) to national and international non-profits (UK Sport, Water Aid, International Planned Parenting, Breast Cancer UK, British Heart Foundation), universities (London School of Economics, Goldsmiths University, Association of Commonwealth Universities) and a number of successful start-ups (Clarasys, White Box) Gill’s areas of expertise are in the application of psychology and neuroscience in the workplace.
Gill is also an expert on mindfulness in the workplace and has worked with a number of high profile organizations to embed mindfulness into working practices , increasing employee wellbeing, focus and performance. Gill has undertaken a number of research projects as an MSc graduate with Aberdeen University in the field of mindfulness and leadership, regularly speaking at conferences on the subject of mindfulness in the workplace.
Gill’s other great passion is writing, her work is available in a number of fiction and non-fiction publications and she is currently completing her first novel. In her spare time Gill runs a small trust that supports refugees on the Thailand/Burma border, she also has a huge love of travel and is a keen artist.
Gill Thackray is a member of the Association of Business Psychologists, Institute of Leadership and Management, British Neuroscience Association and Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. She has practiced mindfulness for over ten years, having lived, worked and studied in China, Tibet, India and Thailand. Gill is also Visiting Professor at CHE University in Phnom Penh Cambodia.