At the outset I am going to make it clear that I am in no way qualified to advise on mental health.  These thoughts are formed from my own experiences of my personal challenges and the things that have helped me.  Anyone struggling with their mental health needs to seek proper medical advice.

It is World Mental Health Day and all I want to do with this blog is add my voice to the noise that is rightly being made about speaking out about mental health.  Talking is good.  The more we talk the better.  The more we talk the quicker the remnants of the stigma attached to this area will be washed away.  The more we talk the easier it will be to talk.  The more we talk the more likely our children are to talk.

Talking is imperative, essential, sometimes hard and sometimes a huge relief.  However, when talking just isn’t possible I have found that writing can also be incredibly therapeutic.  It can offer the opportunity to rant when there is no one to listen.  Writing can help to order chaotic thoughts and feelings.  Writing can enable challenges to be resolved through making sense of issues. Writing allows the scribe the chance to say what they are feeling without fear of judgement, it enables complete honesty.  It can be monumentally hard to divulge every fragment of yourself to a therapist or friend no matter how good they are.  It doesn’t matter how silly or embarrassing something is, a notebook will never think any less of you.

Writing can be a stress release, it can take the author to other times and lands, happy memories or on entirely fictional adventures.  Modern life is stressful, allowing oneself a break from reality not only gives our over active brains a rest from the To Do List and the chance to explore different ideas, it but can also be fun.  It allows creativity and through this a sense of satisfaction and frivolousness. What better for our mental health than fun and frivolity?

Journaling a personal journey whether a physical or emotional journey can provide a really useful reference to look back on and use a tool to help with difficult times or challenges in times to come.  Knowing a similar situation has been faced in the past and has been surmounted is empowering and can provide strength.  Record useful tips and motivations to help your future self.

There is one very important point I would make here and that is the tools used for writing really matter.  Sitting in front of a screen really won’t provide the same creative freedom, stress release or break from exterior stimulation that a simple notebook and pen will.  Studies have shown that our brains behave differently when confronted with a screen compared

with pen and paper.  According to Psychology Today brain imaging studies have shown that certain areas of the brain are activated through cursive writing but not through keyboarding.  Notebooks by their very nature slow us down, we can’t write as fast as we type, thereby enabling greater consideration and allowing creativity to flow.  The flashing message light or the impulsion to just check emails is too great a temptation for most to resist and then the flow is gone, the peace interrupted.  On top of this we all know we spend too long looking at screens and giving our eyes a rest from the fake light and fonts can only be a good thing.  Not only that, but a notebook requires no charge or WIFI connection.  Its simplicity and physicality is reassuring in the fast paced, digital, virtual world we inhabit a lot of the time.  As overused as the phrase is, a ‘digital detox’ can provide much needed headspace, essential for sound mental health in my opinion.

There is also something quite intoxicating about new stationery and in fact a recent study conducted by Lyreco found that almost half of office workers (48%) agreed that ‘stationery is calming and therapeutic’.  See, that stationery addiction is really like prescription!

Communicating with others through writing can also be powerful for both the writer and the receiver.  Of course email and text can be incredibly convenient and are wonderful tools in keeping us connected but putting pen to paper and sending an actual letter means that we will write differently and it offers the chance to show someone we really care.  I think most of us are delighted to receive a letter, it somehow means more than an email, it shows more effort and time taken and that makes us feel special.   So, not only will you be aiding your mental health but also the mental health of those around you.

At woodblock we truly believe in the power of the written word to help aid mental health and with this in mind we are delighted to be donating surplus notebooks to a local Special Educational Needs School.  Many of the pupils have emotional issues.  The notebooks will be given to students as ‘worry books’ where they are free to express themselves and work through emotional challenges.  The students are incredibly well supported by an amazing team but we hope the notebooks (a scarce resource in a time blighted by budgetary cuts) provide a little helping hand.

So, this World Mental Health Day make sure you talk but also maybe try to make time for a bit of writing too!

For tips on how to start the conversation about mental health at work watch this short film