Friday, March 27, 2009

Blogging to Learn, Share, and Heal

A number of years ago, I read a wonderful book by William Zinsser entitled Writing to Learn. While I couldn't find the book last night in order to share a quote with you, what Zinsser confirmed for me is that the best way to make a subject my own is to write about it.

That's part of the reason why I blog; I blog to learn, share (what I've learned), and heal. But sometimes I wonder whether I need to provide more data when I discuss wellness activities (which is just one of the many topics I blog about). When I thought about yesterday's Field Trip Wellness Activity post, I wondered whether a "new" reader might look at that and say,
"Wow, Susan Bernard is really a lightweight. I'm reading this post because I need to find out how to cure myself of bipolarity and/or depression, and she's writing about the wonder of seeing deer at a state park."
And just before I began writing this post, I had one of those Aha Moments. I realized that when I'm undergoing a severe depression, all I want is to find a way to lessen or end the psychic pain. But, unfortunately, I've learned there's just not one "cure that fits all."

However, when my depressive feelings are receding or I'm done with them, I know there truly are lessons to learned and to share about dealing with depression, and that's why I write.

Yet, when I think about my Wellness Activity posts, I wonder whether I need to put them in a larger context. Should I have written, "The reason why I went to the park on Wednesday was that because of my recent depression, I have spent months in relative isolation. And I've learned that once I feel the least bit better, it's really important to be in public places, particularly if I don't feel like engaging with people on a one-on-one basis.

"Also, I believe it's critically important to know what things in life make us feel good. What can we do that's uplifting? What environments do we find life-sustaining?"

And, I wondered whether it would have been helpful to provide supporting data. In fact, I do know that being in the great outdoors, which is my top healing environment, is therapeutic. Mind, a leading United Kingdom health charity, has discussed the value of Ecotherapy, which is "about getting out of doors and becoming active in a green environment as a way of boosting mental health. This includes taking regular walks in the countryside or the park, flying a kite, or taking part in a gardening therapy project.

"In the first study of its kind to examine the effects of green exercise on people with mental health problems, the researchers examined 20 members of local Mind groups who took part in two walks, one in a country park and one in an indoor shopping center, to test the impact on self-esteem, mood and enjoyment.

"The results showed that:
  • 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk.
  • 22 per cent felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping center and only 45 per cent experienced a decrease in depression.
  • 71 per cent said they felt less tense after the green walk.
  • 50 per cent said they felt more tense after the shopping center walk.
  • 90 per cent said their self-esteem increased after the country walk.
  • 44 per cent reported decreased self-esteem after window shopping in the shopping center.
  • 88 per cent of people reported improved mood after the green walk.
  • 44.5 per cent of people reported feeling in a worse mood after the shopping center walk, 11 per cent reported no change and 44.5 per cent said their mood improved.
  • 71 per cent of people said they felt less fatigued after the green walk and 53 per cent said they felt more vigorous."
There's actually more information on the topic. My question is: When I discuss personal wellness activities, is it more helpful for you if I back it up by providing supporting data?

Please let me know how you feel because while I'm usually aware of the data, I don't always think to share it. In the meantime, I hope you have a happy and healthy weekend. See you on Monday!


Gianna said...

Hi Susan,
I like the way you write and sometimes stats and documentation ARE very important, but in the instance of this particular post those stats did nothing for me...I skipped right over them..

BUT...I don't need those stats myself because I know how nature heals already...others may not and may really value that sort of info!!

basically, I would just follow your gut and your heart...and the people who need to find you will...the others will find their answers else where.

I post stuff that appeals to peoples needing documentation and then I also post stuff that has nothing but anecdotes...usually they are in different posts...but that too is just my style.

there is no right or wrong here...and bottom line you will never please everyone...

I think the best writers follow their own particular passions...whatever that may be and that way they attract the most authentic readership.

Catatonic Kid said...

First off, I'd never in my wildest have considered you a lightweight!

I can, however, see how you might be concerned. Knowing as much as you do about the facts, the background material, the realities... well, that couldn't help but be something you'd want to feel is very much present. And it is.

It isn't always what you say but how you say it. And for me your words have always had an impact.

We've got to start somewhere, right? As you mentioned, coming out of Depression isn't a one size fits all thing. We accumulate meaning for the experience gradually and when it finally clicks that's that. But until then it's just a long road full of potholes.

You're not a pothole, though. You're keeping the light of consciousness burning for those whose grasp is more fragile :)

Paula Joy said...

I enjoy reading everything you write, and it makes more sense to me if you back up what you are saying by telling us some of the ways you are doing it in your own life. Experience is the best thing to teach from, isn't it??

I like the way you are assessing everything you are writing and doing lately. It is interesting to me your process of figuring things out and learning what to do in the place you are in at this stage in your life. I love to see that you are growing and changing. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna, CK, and Paula,
Thanks for responding to this one.
My concern was that I believe wellness activities are a critical part of healing, but these posts usually don't get as many readers.

And, the keywords people are seeking these days on my blog are about coping with anger and irritability, dealing with hypomanic symptoms, keeping mood charts, these kind of things. While I have posts on these topics in my archives--these aren't topics I'm interested in writing about any more.

So, I was just wondering if there isn't a way to repackage my wellness activities in a way so readers understand their importance.

And, also I realize that when someone is really depressed, they're looking for specific healing strategies, and I felt that I might need a context in which to present mine.

Gianna, you're right, I need to write from my heart and perhaps new readers will find me.

CK,thank you. It certainly feels good to be considered a "light keeper of consciousness."

Paula Joy, I've always assessed things and for me it hadn't changed with aging. But, I am doing it in more public way, and I'm glad you "love it."

Thanks again, one and all!


Immi said...

Lightweight? That seems like a strange way to describe your blog posts. I don't personally need the stats, though perhaps some do. I think in general, though, you should write the way that works for you -- from your center -- and that will be right for some people. All the people can't be pleased anyway.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Immi,
Glad to see you back. After reading your comment, I realized that I needed to clarify what I'd written (and I did).

I was just referring to the Wellness Activities--not the blog itself. But, thanks for your comment because I realized that perhaps others saw my question as you did.

In fact, I do write from "my center," which is a nice way of saying it. What I was trying to figure out is whether it would be helpful to put these stories in a larger context.

I appreciate your input!


Nancie said...

Dear Susan,

Thanks for sharing your wellness activities. Personally, I think they are very helpful and stats are not so important.

Thanks for all your visits and encouragements. You are in my thoughts and prayers too. I have been very fatigue lately and still learning to pace myself, not able to blog actively but trying my best engage in as many wellness activities as possible :)

Take care and keep in touch!

With love and prayers,

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
I'm so glad to hear that you're okay, and my thoughts and prayers are with you as well.

And I certainly appreciate your input on this topic. I know that you do engage in wellness activities and I'm hoping they're helping you feel better.

So good to hear from you!


Wendalyn Love said...

You raise a valid question. However, I think that most of us who experience depression suffer easily from overload, and poor concentration and so sometimes too much data can be overwhelming. I would say stick with whatever you are doing and follow your instincts. I remember that when I first discovered your site, some idea caught my interest and I looked at several archives and found wonderful teaching. Trust that whoever accesses your blog has that option. You are doing good work, both on the days when you share a lighter approach and the days where you share valid data. You are gifted in both of those areas!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendalyn,
Thanks so much. Your comment certainly captured what my writing is all about, and I appreciate it.

I often write about serious topics in a lighter tone because I believe we can learn as much from humor and personal experience as we can from facts and stats.

But I just wasn't sure people were "getting it." Thanks for letting me know that you are!