At the beginning of this year I set off on an epic journey: I began my MSc dissertation. I wanted to explore how writing could help with stress management. Specifically, I wanted to investigate ‘mind-body dialogue writing’. I had a hunch that this type of writing could improve the relationship between my mind and my body – a relationship that was in dire need of attention. So, did it work?
First, some notes on how I went about the research. For the writing itself I kept things very simple. I typed the words ‘Me’ and ‘Body’ down the page (or computer screen in this case) and then once a week for twelve weeks I filled in whatever dialogue came into my head. In the beginning I was free to write about anything I wanted. As time went on, I gave myself prompts to work from that linked back to health and stress management. Alongside these dialogues I also kept a journal, where I reflected on the conversations – how they made me feel, the frustrations and causes for celebration…
Things got off to a tricky start. My body was very angry with me.
Admittedly I hadn’t treated it well over the years. I had a tendency to ignore my body’s warning signs, particularly during times of stress. Instead of nurturing it I would do the opposite – eating unhealthily, not getting enough sleep, not doing any exercise… On some level I must have known I was making life so much harder for myself.
But the writing was a chance to say sorry and to put things right again. I’d always seen my body as something that ‘belonged’ to me – as my servant, an inferior entity, and at times even an enemy.
How wrong I was. My body showed me it had a wisdom all of its own. I learnt that if I took the time to truly listen, my body often had an answer for me (or at the very least some words of comfort). I began to realise that if I stopped fighting, we could achieve so much more.
Respect was perhaps the most vital lesson. The writing helped me to view my body in a whole new light. We became partners; no longer enemies. We were able to repair our broken relationship, laying the foundation for a healthier and happier future. I saw how I could care for my body in a more loving and effective way. For all this I’m grateful.
What’s next? Well, now that I’ve ‘laid the groundwork’ with my body I want to continue exploring what we can achieve together. In particular, I’m keen to find out how mind-body dialogue writing can provide support at crucial times of physical life stress – such as recovering from an accident, preparing for an operation, or preparing for labour. What will I discover? Watch this space.