Writing Back to Happiness … How to write the little stories in life by Kay Underdown

A very special collaboration with four lovely ladies on the Isle of Thanet by the beautiful Kent coast in England

It means so much to me to be able to share this picture of my long-awaited book, a collaboration with four wonderful ladies in my writing group on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. It was due to be completed in 2020 but it just wasn’t happening. I do believe that the right time comes and by waiting it has become even more than I hoped it would be and with the cover designed by my eldest daughter Jessica.

This little book represents what I am about, inspiring people to write and share the little stories in life with the benefits to wellbeing this can bring. Included is a selection of life coaching exercises for self-coaching appearing throughout the book. It’s one to dip into with a notebook and pen to hand to capture what thoughts come to mind.

I’ve self-published the book using my own Waves and Pebbles Publishing imprint and at the moment copies will be available directly through me. It is a little book but one that I hope will make a big difference, resulting in many special memories being captured and shared.

There are many writing prompts that you can take wherever you wish, don’t try and stick to the original prompt, let your mind wander. You don’t even need to be a writer to use this book, if you like you can draw instead (though I haven’t covered drawing in the book). It’s surprising what appears on the page in just five minutes if you allow the pen to just move across the paper without self-judgement.

I’ve just created a new page on Facebook – Writing Back to Happiness – which I hope will be available online later today. Please do follow my page. I intend to do some Facebook lives based on the book which will be starting soon and I will come back here to talk more about what is happening.

I hope you are enjoying your week-end. Kay 💐

Dealing with the unexpected

Mountain goats in Llandudno North Wales

On a day trip last week-end, I ended up at a wonderful place by the coast in North Wales. I had set off for the seaside and a much needed drive along the coast. I was not disappointed and captured photos of some beautiful places, some of which I will share in other posts.

Shortly before making our way home, we came across a small group of goats heading somewhat purposefully along the broad pavement. They were all headed in the same direction and it was difficult to see their faces. When they came to the corner they all stopped and just stood there, as if waiting to cross the road but not making a decision to do so. Cars slowed to give them space but they remained static as we passed by.

It was strange seeing them there, I didn’t expect to see mountain goats wandering about town. Except they didn’t seem to be wandering and I was intrigued by what they had in mind.

My initial feeling of surprise was mixed with wonder, it was a good feeling and I really wanted to savour the moment. Yet it was touched with wariness and caution – I didn’t want to get out and take a photo and I didn’t wish to disturb their perhaps perplexed focus on the road, an open but risky barrier to whatever their goal may have been.

As I relax on a Saturday morning I enjoy reflecting back on my photos and seeing where they lead me. The images of the goats have led me to reflect on dealing with the unexpected.

Sometimes things happen in a moment of communication, it may be a letter, email, knock on the door, telephone call or a random connection with a stranger while out and about. Something that stops us in our tracks, that interrupts our expected and comfortable path, even if that is an unknown path, such as my spontaneous road trips when I may get lost … as had happened when I discovered the goats! Oftentimes I have a vague aim in mind but I am willing to be drawn off-track especially if it may offer opportunities for intriguing discovery.

The things that can really knock us off track can be those that are totally unexpected or those that we didn’t see coming in quite the way that they did. It is at these times it is so important for our own self-care to just stop and pause, allow ourselves to take things in, like the mountain goats at the road junction. To stop and allow ourselves to just breathe and do what we need to do in that moment before we make a choice.

When faced with a junction in your life, take the time that you need to either make a choice or wait until the time is right for you to make that choice. It is your own life to live and even when we feel that we have no choice, or there is nothing that we can do, if we give ourselves the moments we need to just take things in, ponder the options we know about and allow time for those options we may not be aware of to reveal themselves, we will be better placed to make the decision that is right for us.

Sometimes we don’t have to make a decision even if others are pressurising us to do things we don’t want to do. We may eventually have to make a choice but the timing of that is our choice, it’s our life and our path. No-one knows another person’s world. No-one. They may think they do but we are unique with our own roots that lead to such a beautiful array of essences within the world.

This past week has been such a mix of emotions and I have been so privileged to spend time doing something that is so important to me. My younger self would never have imagined that I would still be finding new and valuable learning paths that have the potential to make so much difference to people’s lives.

So it’s the start of another week-end, a journey of opportunity.

As we passed the mountain goats we wondered if they would be OK, would they be stuck where they were. We went off our own route and stopped to ask the way, being rewarded by a beautiful late afternoon seascape and connecting with local people who helpfully pointed us in the right direction.

We continued on our way and joyfully came across the goats once more, this time having made their way to a new spot where they felt comfortable to spread out and wander into the much quieter road. They looked content, they had found their way even if that was just for now. And that’s OK.

Lost but still time to capture a photo of this beautiful spot and connect with local dog walkers who helped us find our route home

“Pancakes!” How to start writing for wellbeing with the little random stories about life

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This post is for everyone who’d like to have a go at writing for their own interest and enjoyment but hasn’t known how to start.  The following is a suggested way forward, take from it what you will.  A little bit more about me and my book-writing at the bottom.

Morning pages

A method taken from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”, this is what got me started on using writing in my own life.  Either first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, when you are able to have some private space and time to yourself (I know this isn’t always possible but try to if you can).  All you need is some blank A4 paper and a pen.  Make sure you are sitting comfortably, take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing, notice any feelings of tension and just allow yourself to relax and let go as you breathe.  Once you feel ready to start writing, put pen to paper and just write whatever comes.  Don’t stop to think if it is right or wrong, or to correct anything, just allow your pen to wander across the page.  If you can’t think of anything to write, then just write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write” and keep repeating it until your own words slip onto the page.  Keep going until you have filled three pages of A4 paper.  This method gets you used to just writing without censoring anything, without thinking about whether it is being written in the right way or not.  Try doing it once a day for a few days and continue if you wish.  You may be surprised at what ends up on the page … the one thing there should not be is crossings out!  Once you have mastered this, you are ready to go onto the next stage.

Timed writing

This is something that I learnt while attending a creative writing class.  I now use this method regularly at our weekly writing group meetings.  Set a timer for 5 minutes (I use a colourful triple egg-timer but you can set your phone alarm, stopwatch etc.)  You can decide on a topic, anything of your choice.  This morning my friend in Scotland asked me for a writing prompt and I ended up saying “Pancakes” because we had a conversation the other day about them and it just popped back into my head.  So if you would like to use this same topic I would love to hear your stories if you would like to share them with me.  You may start off thinking about Pancakes but end up in a totally different place … that doesn’t matter and is entirely what is so fascinating about the process.  So … once you have your topic write it at the top of your page.  Then just start the timer for 5 minutes and start writing.  Don’t correct yourself, just write.  It is a good idea to have tried writing “morning pages” a few times so you get used to writing without correcting yourself or worrying about grammar, spelling or punctuation.  This is about bringing out stories from you, your life, memories, thoughts today, hopes for the future without being judged or criticised.  To use writing to communicate with yourself and as a way of sharing your stories with others.

Start a journal

Find a scrapbook, photo album, large notebook or whatever you might have to hand, it may be an old diary or just plain A4 paper that you can keep in a file, and choose a time each day to write about your daily life.  This can be very practical, just putting down the facts, or you can choose to go deeper and write about your internal thoughts and feelings.  You can add sketches, stick in cut out pictures that you like, anything you feel like that says something about your day.  You can decide to do this daily or whenever you feel like it so that there is no pressure, it is something to enjoy.  Let it take you wherever you wish, you can talk about past memories, what is happening now or your dreams for the future.  You can add complete pieces of writing such as that done as morning pages or timed writing.  You can stick an envelope in the journal and use this as a pocket for this writing or you can extract quotes, writing these into your journal.  Enjoy!

Life Happens, Live Happy … and start a blog!

However you are feeling in this moment, writing can take you on a personal journey that may surprise you.  It has therapeutic benefits and is something you can do anywhere with very little resources.  In 2015 I was seriously ill with leukaemia.  Writing became my saviour, providing me with a focus during my treatment.  This current situation that the world finds itself in has brought that time back to me and made me realise that, although I have continued to write and have been running Life Story Writing groups in the community, there is something about blogging that really helped me as there was no pressure.  People could choose to read my posts if they wished and it was a really good feeling when I was able to connect with people across the world.  Life takes over and my blogging has been sporadic.  Eventually I wrote my book” Life Happens, Live Happy” which is the story behind this blog.  I have reduced the price on Amazon to £0.99p for the Kindle version (it is free for those those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited).  I believe that there are things in it that may be of help to others during this time, especially to be inspired to start writing their own stories about life.

I am now writing a new book, “Writing back to Happiness”, this is a work-in-progress and a collaboration with my wonderful small writing group that I was meeting with each week until this situation unexpectedly happened.  It will explain how I use an empowering life coaching approach to inspire people to write the little random stories about their life and to share them with others, with the many diverse conversations that arise from this.

Keep well, keep safe and I express my gratitude for everyone out there that is supporting the world in roles that are essential to our health and wellbeing at this surreal time.  If you are struggling, and notice your mood dropping, it can help to focus on the little things that we are grateful for in our lives, listing these, writing them down, can help lift our mood when we may be struggling to cope with what life has thrown at us.  Life Happens, Live Happy … and connect with others through writing and sharing your stories about the little things in life that bring you joy.

 

Kay xxx

 

 

Writing back to Happiness

In 2015 I started this blog when I was dealing with treatment for a life threatening form of leukaemia. I kept the blog up for some while – it helped provide me with a focus – and when I was able to go out, I enjoyed taking photos and sharing them.

As life returned to some form of normality – I had survived! (needing checks every six months) – my blog writing slipped. I had a couple of attempts to rekindle it but somehow life got in the way. Yet when I wrote my first book “Life Happens, Live Happy” (available on Amazon – author Kay Underdown), I fully realised how both writing and blogging had helped me through some very challenging times.

When I eventually graduated from University in 2017 with my degree in Social Sciences, having had a whole year out due to my illness, the idea for Life Story Writing was born. Workshops and courses using my own unique approach combining coaching, creativity and sense of belonging.

Following graduation I had to negotiate some difficult, and unexpected, life paths. the outcome is living in the most wonderful area by the sea, one of my dreams that I had long wanted to achieve but never before had the guts to see it through.

There followed a period when I half-heartedly worked towards working for myself as a coach and running workshops but somehow the time wasn’t right. Life was good. I still felt as if I was on holiday whenever I had the time to wander but I lacked something and I just didn’t know what that something was. So I returned to University to start a Masters degree in Methods of Social Research and during this time I had a period of exploration and fine-tuned my direction. It was the Life Story Writing workshops I wanted to focus on. I had an inner conviction that they could really make a difference to people’s wellbeing, and could help increase happiness and sense of belonging.

After a few initial workshops on happiness and empowerment and life story writing, I started running a longer course for a local charity aimed at people aged 50+. That course has led to something very special to me – a small life story writing group. One of the outcomes from this will be my next book – “Writing back to Happiness” Life Story Writing the Waves and Pebbles Way. I started handwriting this book just after Christmas with a lovely new fountain pen, part of a set gifted to me by my group.

It is during these meetings that I have realised how much I really enjoyed blogging, and not really understood why I stopped doing something I loved so much. Anyway, here I am, back again!

I am excited for 2020. It somehow feels that it is a year of the unexpected but that it will be good, providing new adventures with opportunities to explore all that life has to offer and doing it in my own way.

I truly wish anyone reading this the very best for 2020 and the coming new decade. May you give yourself the gift of time to explore what it is you really want to do with your life – whether that’s carrying on doing the things that you love or allowing yourself to explore new avenues based on your own life values and future dreams.

Watch this space as I continue “Writing back to Happiness”. My focus for my Waves and Pebbles blog continues to be random stories about life, creativity and memories – with the addition of nature – which are all reflected in my Life Story Writing workshops and groups.

I live in Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. We are blessed with beautiful bays, sandy beaches and amazing skies. In 2020 I will be running short courses at various venues, usually hotels and cafes where you can relax and enjoy a social occasion and do some life story writing back to happiness along the way. I am also exploring the possibility of offering online groups so if you might be interested in this, please let me know.

I hope you have all enjoyed the festive season and are looking forward to what the New Year 2020 and the next decade will bring. I’d love to hear your life stories and what your hopes and dreams are for the future.

Kay xx

Please feel free to comment here or visit my website http://www.kayunderdown.com. You will also find my page on Facebook @empoweringyoubeyondyourdreams (Kay Underdown, Happiness & Empowerment Coach). Like my blog, this has not been kept up to date and I am looking at developing my social media presence specifically aimed at Life Story Writing. I’d love to hear your own experiences of writing … or perhaps the reasons why you don’t write … I also encourage people to draw their stories if they don’t want to write or to do storyboards, a bit of both!

Possessions, memories and how to approach clutterless living unique to you

Copyright 2015, Cajsa Lilliehook, Flickr, CC-BY-SA, via Wylio

Copyright 2015, Cajsa Lilliehook, Flickr, CC-BY-SA, via Wylio

Following on from my last post on Selfness, here is another piece of draft writing from the same book (self-development/coaching).

‘Clutterless < — > Tidyness

I have had a long struggle with ‘clutter’ – I hold on to things for too long that I may never need. I now recognise that there is little value in this, apart from saving a few pennies or pounds in the distant future at the expense of living a cluttered existence.  If there is too much clutter, housework takes too long and becomes an unwelcome chore.

There has been much written on being clutterfree but some of this can be over-the-top, and lead to having a de-personalised space which is great for a showhouse but is it really a home?

At one time, I felt rebellious about clutterbusting.  Having had to downsize, I had no option than to sell or dispose of many items, some of which I still have regrets about.  Thankfully I did not rid myself completely of some of the smaller boxes containing various bits and pieces.  I later went through these and as I picked up a piece, I would recall a special person or time in my life.  Having a poor memory for some things, these triggers are invaluable and I am so thankful that I still have them in my life.

The key is to achieve a balance between possessions and space, with each possession having a place.  This leads to being clutterless (as opposed to clutterfree), keeps the space tidy and results in a personalised environment that is special to you.

Periodically I enjoy spending time sifting through a selection of my possessions to check that I still want to keep them, or to organise them in a better way.  This works for me.  I have found that by decorating a room in a way that brings me pleasure, then choosing storage solutions that complement that environment, I am able to keep the things that I love in a way that adds to my contentment in my home.

My problem is that I still buy things and bring them into the home. I get pleasure from browsing in charity shops and strolling round boot fairs, disastrous for adding to clutter! But I enjoy it, and therefore my sifting has become a regular occurrence to keep balance within the home. The benefits are that this process can be done mindfully. (A topic for another post.)

Here are a few tips for becoming clutterless:

  • Spend random times – perhaps in the evenings or at week-ends – going through a shelf, drawer or cupboard.  What works for me, if I am not motivated but want to sort something out, is to set a timer for 20 minutes and make an agreement with myself that after 20 minutes I can be done.  Oftentimes I am by then enjoying myself and get lost in the task, carrying on longer and achieving more, with a sense of satisfaction from the end result.
  • Draw up your own criteria for keeping things.  My own is that an item either gives pleasure, is useful now or within the next year, has memories or some other reason that I can justify to myself for keeping it.  Books are my downfall – yet they are such treasures. Also clothes. I do hold on to a lot of clothes, even though I apply the sifting process, but if they are well-organised then I don’t see it as a problem.
  • Decide what storage you want and get it.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  There are lots of cheap shelving options out there, or colourful boxes and filing systems.  The choice is yours. I have a bed with wonderful drawers which take a surprising amount.
  • Question what you are keeping ‘because it may be of use some day’.  My experience is that it is the things with memories, special things that people have given me, that I have missed. Those without memories are soon forgotten, and if you don’t need them then the likelihood is that you will not miss them. Amongst my regrets are my food mixer and food processor that I had for many years. I was in for a shock when I saw the replacement cost. So, think twice before sifting too far!
  • Think about what you really enjoy in your life.  Consider your values and keep the things that enhance your life.  Let go of those you will never use and just leave you with feelings of guilt that you should have done something with them.

Accept your level of clutterlessness and enjoy.’

This piece was written a few years back.  If you have read my recent post on Clutter-busting, it will be clear that I have not completely solved the clutter problem.  It remains something which varies according to my health, energy and motivation.

At the risk of sounding a bit weird, a conversation and youtube watching session with my daughter on shopping hauls gave me the idea of playing around with my new computer videoing a garage book haul.  I took a block of ten books off my shelf unit in my garage and recorded myself going through them and talking about them and what I found interesting.  I was hoping that by doing this I would at least find something that I no longer wanted.  I was wrong … it just reinforced my choice to keep them.  And the potential youtube video?  It was a learning experience – for a start it was too slow, I was swinging to and fro on my chair – very distracting – and it seemed so false!  There’s certainly work to be done if I want to join my daughter in becoming a youtuber (something she wants to do but not yet and would be great if we could both get involved).

By the way, for those that have read my post on Clutter-busting, as part of my garage plan I was researching the cost of skips at the week-end only to find that local skip hire companies are exceptionally secretive about their fees meaning that a few phone calls were needed.  Well today I contacted some and was slightly horrified at the cost.  Then I looked at the van hire and somehow the skip seemed more appealing.  However, even just working out that plan got me motivated to make a start on sorting the garage out, even if it wasn’t according to the plan I devised. I’ve made a start on working through it.

As a last thought, I think being part of this blogging community is really helping to motivate and inspire me.  When it comes to the home, I particularly like Le Zoe Musings which has such beautiful photos which include a selection of closet solutions.  Blogging has opened up a whole new world to me at a time when the world might otherwise have seemed to be getting smaller.

Selfness – Writing, Coaching and Authenticity

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I have come across the start of some draft writing I did a few years back on self-development and life coaching. The following is an extract.

Guiltless <—> Selfness

Do you want to make a difference to YOUR life?  Do you want to think about yourself and your needs?  If you find this difficult, are you always putting the needs of other people before you?  There is no need to feel guilty.  This is not being selfish.  Empower yourself to improve your own life by realising that your needs and wants are important.  If you have family or are caring for someone else, they may rely on you.  For you to give of your best, you need to be in the best place to do this.  Not only does this make you a better person, it makes life worth living for YOU and everyone you care for or have a relationship with benefits too.  Your relationships with other people will improve, you will feel calm, relaxed, having an increased sense of well-being.’

At the time, I thought I had made up the words Guiltless and Selfness. I  have since discovered that they are in fact words and oxforddictionaries.com sums up the meanings.

Selfness
A person’s essential individuality
(archaic) Selfishness; self-regard

Guiltless
Having no guilt; innocent

The meaning of guiltless is pretty obvious.  When related to the idea of selfness, it is about not feeling guilty when thinking about yourself and your needs when you think other’s needs are more important.  As can be seen from the definitions, the meaning of selfness has changed over time.  It did mean that someone was being selfish.  When I read what it means now – a person’s essential individuality – it fits well with what I have written.  Authenticity is a word that comes to mind and being true to oneself.  Knowing what you value in life and observing them when making life choices. It is not just what your values are but the way in which you prioritise them – this can be the subject of a future post.

What is important is that if you are true to yourself and your needs, then you will be a happier person better placed to have successful relationships and able to care for others.  So think about your selfness – and what you need to do for YOU to improve your own well-being and happiness.

  • In writing this post I have opened up a whole new world of what Selfness is by having a quick Google.  I think I need hours, days or more to give it justice but you may like to have a look yourself if you are interested in the concept.