Reading for Wellness

Reading for Wellness Course from the University of Warwick

Next month I am starting an online course from the University of Warwick through Future Learn called Literature and Depression: Reading for Wellbeing.

This is a subject I have always been interested in, and while I don’t suffer greatly from depression, having an autoimmune disease that often makes me extremely fatigued means that reading  is a great solace to me, because it gives me the ability to rest my body while I engage my mind (podcasts are also great!).

Even more importantly, reading the right book or poem at the right time can offer  a great sense of wonder, which is definitely what makes me enjoy living and helps me make the most of every day.  I should preface the phrase ‘right book at the right time’ by saying that I mean the right book at the right time for me.  Everyone’s reading needs and desires are different, and my perfect leisure reading or reading for solace will not be the same as someone else’s.  We all have different reading paths.

I am excited to learn more about reading that may offer comfort, however, and I am looking forward to learning about some famous readers and what peace they found.  I hope that this course will help me expand my bibliotherapy offering in future and it will definitely help me with Readers Advisory at the library.

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What I Learned Wearing A Capsule Wardrobe For a Year

What I learned from wearing a Minimal Capsule Wardrobe for a year

When my workplace introduced a limited colour palette of black, white and grey a year ago, I basically stopped buying new clothes. I have bought the odd fresh t-shirt or top, and two new jumpers, but have pretty much survived this Sydney winter in the same 4 dresses, 2 cardigans, 2 skirts, 2 pairs of tights and 1 pair of jeans.

Apart from 1 new dress and 1 new skirt that I bought to start with, I really did already have a capsule wardrobe – it was just hiding in amongst all my other clothes.

what I learned when I wore the same clothes in a limited colour palette for a year:

Fewer clothes makes getting dressed so much easier

It’s true what they say about uniform dressing, there is much less to consider in the morning when all you have to worry about is the temperature and what kind of situation you are entering that day – having less items of clothing will immediately narrow down the choices you have to make once you have taken weather and context into consideration.

You will save a lot of money

If you limit the colour palette of your wardrobe, going shopping will lose its charm. You will look at half the clothes on the rack and simply say ‘not for me’. Over time, the desire to even go shopping will almost disappear.

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What is Bibliotherapy?

ways to read more

There can be an amazing solace in reading the right book at the right time, and bibliotherapy is both a formal and informal way to help readers find the stories or information they need during significant moments in their lives.

In a formal sense, bibliotherapy is a clinical practice that encourages healing through reading and reflection. Expressive therapies like bibliotherapy use the arts and value creative and imaginative processes as paths to healing. By carefully selecting reading materials that may help a client understand or solve an issue that they may be facing at a particular time, bibliotherapy practitioners offer options for personal reflection, assessment and growth.

In a more informal sense, bibliotherapy is what many of us do whenever we are feeling unsettled, sad, or confused. We reach for a read from our comfort shelf – the books that remind us who we are, and that reinforce our sense of self. New reading can also enrich our lives, providing us with much needed insight and inspiration.

Reading specialists like myself love nothing better than matching the right book with the right person at the right time. Not all readers are the same, and when helping someone work out what to read next, I like to understand the reader – what they like to read and why, and what they don’t like to read and why. I also like to understand if the reader is seeking a new perspective, revitalisation or a renewed sense of wonder, or comfort.

It’s also important to recognise that everyone’s reading choices are valid. There’s no point being snobby about what people read, and we all read for different reasons. I do like helping people read outside their comfort zones from time to time, however, and this is one of the fun challenges you face as a reading specialist or amateur bibliotherapist.

In an informal bibliotheraphy session, I might have a friendly conversation with you, and ask you some questions about your reading and where you are in your life. I may give you some instant recommendations on what to read next, and I may follow up with some suggestions by email after a bit of research or reflection. Because I’m not a psychologist or counsellor, I can’t help you with serious issues that may come up in our conversations, but I do have a great list of services staffed by professional and caring people that I can refer you to.

I’m an ‘expert reader’ at The Mudgee Readers’ Festival in August, in beautiful rural NSW. If you will be in Mudgee during the festival and are interested in having a one-on-one or small group conversation with me about reading, you can book in for a 15 minute bibliotherapy session on Saturday 12 August at Warbehr Design.  These sessions are free, but you must email info@mudgeereaders.com to book your 15 minute slot.

For the Full Festival Program, visit The Mudgee Readers’ Festival website.  The Festival runs from Thursday 10 August to Sunday 13 August, 2017.

What is Bibliotherapy, How can you lead a better life through books, and what should you read next?

How to Live Like A Traveler (Even When You Are Home)

How to live like a traveler (even when you are at home)
It can be really tough when you get that itch to travel, but circumstances prevent you from traveling too far or for very long.  A big year at work and our first year of having a mortgage to pay off mean that there hasn’t been much scope for overseas trips in the last 12 months, but I have developed some strategies to help keep myself sane and grounded when all I really want to do is take flight.  Here are some of the ways I help myself find that exhilarating and/or comforting feeling that travel always brings into my life.

Centre Yourself

Many mornings when I have to get up, shower and go to work, I try to visualise the excellent life place I was in when I was travelling solo for six months, back in 2013.  The physical place that represents my adventure mindset that I always end up returning is Whistler in Canada, because I was there in summer and the landscape, hiking and people I met were amazing.  I felt so free and grounded there.  Most mornings when I am in the shower, shampooing my hair etc, I imagine I am back in the shower of my dorm at the Whistler Hi Hostel.  This helps me start the day with the same peace and sense of wonder that I have when I am travelling.  Every day is an opportunity to recapture the person I was that summer.

Prepare Your Body for Future Travel

Traveling requires endurance, and we are often far more active when traveling than when at home.  Lately I experimented with being as active and adventurous in Sydney as I am when traveling, and found it really lifted my spirits.  I bought new active wear that I love so much I would wear it all day if I could, and started getting up at 6am at least 3 mornings a week to take the dog for a 7 km walk around Sydney Harbour near our house in Balmain.  I also started cycling 10 km to rock climbing twice a week and going for drives to the beach on weekends for an early morning swim.  Not only do I feel much more fit, strong and capable, I feel encouraged by the fact that I am living the same active life that I would be if I were off on a long adventure. Let’s just say that I have already started my training regime for a life of future travel.

Downsize Your Possessions

After having been home for a while, most of us tend to start to accumulate possessions again. While I love having shelves full of books, an ice cream maker, and at least three big fluffy petticoats for wearing under vintage dresses, I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that I have.  I often lie in bed at night doing an audit of my wardrobe, working out what would make the cut if I were to head off traveling, and what would stay behind.  I’m making a point at the moment of selling or getting rid of a lot of possessions that I just really don’t need in my life any more, and whenever I buy anything new I think about whether this is something that will help me in the future if I decide to live a more transient life.

Make the Most of Your Weekends

Even when you work full time, there are weekends (especially long weekends) when you can get out of the city and go somewhere different.  Even though it has been a very busy year without any overseas trips (NZ doesn’t count), I have been lucky enough to go on several short trips in the last year, including to Queenstown, Noosa, Melbourne, Mudgee, Brisbane, Tasmania, and the Hunter Valley.  Even if you can’t jump on a plane or drive for three hours, there are still plenty of ways to explore your own backyard.  Check out national parks near your home, cheap rental properties near the beach for the weekend, special excursions like walks or kayaking trips.  I especially like We Are Explorers, an Australian community of adventurers who curate awesome microadventures that you can go on close to home.

Travel in Your Own City

Even if we spend much of our time dreaming of far-off or exotic locations, most of us are actually not that great at spending time alone.  If you are thinking about traveling in the future, or just want to capture that magic travel feeling, try wandering your own city.  Pick a suburb you have never been to before and visit for the day, go to museums alone, take solo ferry journeys, take a book to a restaurant or cafe with good atmosphere and eat out alone, visit bookstores and art galleries.  Exploring your own city is a great way to revisit that sense of wonder you carry with you when you travel and gives you a chance to see your own home with fresh eyes.

Travel in Your Own Mind

Even if you can’t leave your home any time soon, there is no reason why you can’t expand your own experiences.  Read world literature, watch foreign films, and cook meals from other cultures.  Food is one of the most amazing things about traveling, and is something we savour and remember long after we have moved on to our next destination.  A great way to live like you are travelling is to eat food from the places you would like to go (or have been).  We love French and German Rieslings and have been thinking about going to Alsace for a long time.  We planned to spend a month in France in 2017, with part of that time spend in Alsace, but unfortunately (due to a number of circumstances) it looks like we may not make it in the next 12 moths.  But last night, to help myself imagine myself there, I cooked Coq au Riesling, and it was delicious.  You would be surprised how many ways there are to travel to a place you have never been, even when you are in your own living room.

Treat Yourself: Bedlinen

cultiver-sheets

After getting divorced in my late twenties, I lived alone for the first time. It was a quite roomy one bedroom house with a large living room, long corridor and large and very liveable kitchen. It was the entire downstairs of a Sydney terrace house and had a gorgeous garden out the back. I rented on Gumtree (Australia’s Craigslist) and it cost me a third of my salary each week. This was a luxury I decided I needed for a while, to help me find some peace and also test myself: to see if I could live alone and if I would enjoy it.

My new house came furnished and while there was a lot of stuff in the house… shabby antique furniture and over 100 vintage pictures hung on the walls, the bedroom was surprisingly minimal. It just had a plain double bed with no headboard, and a lamp that sent out a gentle, mellow light from a little bedside table. To personalise the bedroom and give myself a little luxury, I splashed out on a gorgeous quilt cover from Spacecraft. It made the room, and also helped me feel extremely happy going to bed each night alone. I loved that little house and discovered in my year there (among other, much more important things) that good bedlinen is a little luxury that can help you every day.

Whether it is a statement quilt cover, or buttery linen sheets, or a collection of mismatched vintage pillow cases, this is a gorgeous and practical way to treat yourself. We do spend a third of our life in bed, after all.