Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sparking Joy


Perhaps when you saw the title of today's blog post you might have imagined I would be writing about the ubiquitous Marie Kondo, the guru who suggests we spark joy by clearing and organizing our stuff. Only partly right. What I am writing about is sparking joy by stringing together a series of small moments of joy for the purpose of if not happiness, at least, contentment. Here’s what I mean:
  • On the side of my house I have a small container garden (cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley). Each morning I go outside and commune with my little garden, sparking if not an entire salad, a moment of pure joy.

  • I read a cartoon, a cleverly written paragraph (say Anne Lamott or David Sedaris), or an absolutely laugh out loud page of dialogue in a novel, producing a moment of joy.

  • I eat a cherry (or a handful of cherries), so perfectly ripe and sweet I close my eyes and have a private, ecstatic moment of joy with my fruit.

  • I finally work through a huge accumulated pile of papers in my office and experience the sheer pleasure of seeing an empty space on the vintage wooden library table in the back of my office (so there, Marie Kondo).
These are difficult days; it is all too easy to become overwhelmed by the state of the world. I love this quote by Brenda Ueland: “I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”

Take some time to find and string together your own moments of joy!

Please take very good care!





Susan Borkin, PhD is a psychotherapist, author, and speaker. A journal writing pioneer, she has specialized in the therapeutic use of writing since 1978.



Wednesday, May 6, 2020

List Yourself

Do you ever have days when writing a journal entry just seems like too much work? Fortunately, there are alternative ways to write that don’t require much of a narrative. Although we usually think of using lists for things to do, grocery shopping, or packing a suitcase, there are many other ways to use lists. Consider the following prompts and examples since the start of the covid-19 quarantine:
  • What have you learned about yourself? (There are parts of isolation I actually like)
  • What have you noticed about your own creativity? (I seem to be feeling more creative than usual)

  • What creative solutions have you tried? (Working out in my living room using soup cans for weights)

  • What has made you teary or sad? (Talking on the phone to an elderly cousin when she said, “I may never see you again.”)

  • What have you enjoyed listening to, watching, or streaming? (I seem to be stuck on Australian television shows)

  • What has made you laugh out loud? (Same answer twice in a row---Australian television shows)

  • In what ways are you thinking differently about your future? (Definitely on-line teaching, more virtual clients)
Here are some suggestions for using the above prompts:
  • Responses to each of the prompts can be short or later developed into longer journal entries.

  • This is a very limited list. Make up your own prompts.

  • As always, there are no right or wrong ways to use these lists.
Please take very good care!




Susan Borkin, PhD is a psychotherapist, author, and speaker. A journal writing pioneer, she has specialized in the therapeutic use of writing since 1978.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Keep Calm and Journal On

Last week when I spoke with Michelle, my virtual assistant extraordinaire, she mentioned we hadn’t published anything for four years. Four years! Yikes! Where have I been? What have I been doing? Well, let’s see. For more than two and one-half years of that period, I was finishing my dissertation. For the next 18 months, I was dealing with Post Dissertation Stress Order. Yes, this is a real thing (which I will cover in another post).

But in this new age of Coronavirus, I began to ask myself what I could do as a mental health professional. Of course, I could expand working with clients virtually. Also, since journaling and the healing power of writing have been the core of my work for decades, I could certainly offer journaling suggestions for this challenging time.

While we know that journaling cannot prevent Coronavirus, or any other illness, for that matter, there are numerous ways journaling can help reduce related stress. For instance:

  • Free Form Writing – Close your eyes and sit quietly for a few moments. Begin by setting a timer for 10 minutes. Start writing whatever comes to mind. What you write does not need to make sense or be logical. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or syntax. Just dump out whatever comes to mind. It is definitely okay to write longer than 10 minutes.

  • QuickLists – As fast as you can, start writing a list of all the things that are annoying, scary, or making you angry. Just get it all down.

  • Dialogue – While you may not be able to connect with friends or family as easily as usual, you can create a dialogue anytime you wish. Start a conversation with someone you want to talk to. Imagine the response and write that down. Continue in this way as long as you like. Your dialogue will look something like a screen play.
Please take good care!





Susan Borkin, PhD is a psychotherapist, author, and speaker. A journal writing pioneer, she has specialized in the therapeutic use of writing since 1978.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Clutter Control for Creative People

I was talking to my very creative friend Margot about a visit from my feng shui lady. 

“It was wonderful,” I explained enthusiastically, with the zeal of the newly converted. “One of the most important things we discussed was clutter.” 

I heard a soft laugh from Margot and then, “Do you know how many years we’ve been talking about our clutter?”

Here’s the problem with creative people like Margot and me -- We live in the land of possibility:
  • “I can’t throw that out, I could make a (fill in the blank) out of it.”

  • “But I might need that information for an article I might write some day.”

  • “I would so much rather be writing, drawing, or creating something than filing papers!”

  • “I’ll just finish this project and then I’ll clean up my office.”
On the other hand, when we do finally begin to deal with the clutter, there is a profound sense of accomplishment. When we let go of things we don’t need, we are freer to be present in the moment, have much more creative energy, and generally feel lighter and happier. 

Here are a few things that I found helpful:
  • Think about how good it would feel to have empty space.
  • Avoid piling your in-box by making it vertical; it’s easier to deal with things lined up instead of piled up.
  • Do some writing in your journal about feelings that come up when you begin to de-clutter.
  • Schedule time each day to deal with new mail and things that find their way into your office. Make an appointment with yourself in your calendar for de-cluttering.

If you are feeling stuck with clutter in your life and need some help, let’s set up a time to chat. You can reach me at susan@susanborkin.com or by phone at (408) 973-7877.

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Copyright © 2016 Susan Borkin

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter Blues

The Mindful Living Network states that Monday, January 25th is the most depressing day of the year. While I’m not sure whether or not there is actual research to back up that statement, it is pretty clear that the month of January can be a depressing time. Let’s consider what makes this a difficult month for many people. The build-up and excitement of the holiday season is over, but credit card debt is not over. In many places in North America, the weather is at its absolute worse. Days are shorter and daylight is scarce. Psychologically, your fresh resolutions for the New Year might have taken a bit of a nosedive. 

First, it’s important to rule out the difference between winter blues and more serious depression. If you find you are feeling sad much of the time, have nothing you are looking forward, find yourself waking up in the early morning and are unable to go back to sleep, you may be suffering from depression. From time to time, everyone gets depressed. But if the symptoms I mentioned above in addition to changes in appetite, loss of interest in everyday activities, or thoughts of harming yourself are present, you might consider seeking help from a qualified mental health practitioner.  

Whether you are depressed or just having a case of the winter blues, there are a number of things you can do to help yourself feel better.  Exercise is a natural anti-depressant. So if you are able and weather permits, get outdoors and walk. Attend a group dance or exercise class. Meditate. Get some colored pencils and an adult coloring book. Of course, journaling will provide you with many options, as well. 

“Three Good Things,” an exercise taken from positive psychology and developed by Martin Seligman, suggests you write down three good things that happened to you every day. Not only does the memory of three good things lift your spirits, but thinking about or anticipating three good things re-frames how you look at your world each day. You are actually in the practice of finding good things. 

An exercise I have found helpful for myself and for clients is called an “I Don’t Want List.” I discovered this exercise for myself many years ago. I found I was really grouchy and didn’t feel like doing anything I was supposed to do. So I started writing down each of those “should.” Somehow, just stating what I didn’t want to do, turned around my negative feelings. Try it; it might surprise you.

You might also try “Giving Depression a Voice.” Sit quietly and close your eyes for a few minutes. Become aware of your breathing. When you are ready, imagine your depression has a voice. Listen to the voice of your depression and write down what you hear. 

Remember, spring always follows winter. Get some planting bulbs and plant them in a pot. Before you know it the dark days of winter will be over and your flowers will be in bloom!


If you are feeling stuck with a writing project and need some help let’s set up a time to chat. You can reach me at susan@susanborkin.com or by phone at (408) 973-7877.

Please jump in and respond on this blog, by clicking the green 'Comments' link just below.


If you are new to blogging, here are some instructions. If you are the first leave a comment, it will say '0 Comments' - just click that link. If you do not have one of the listed accounts, please choose either Name/URL or Anonymous from the profile list before you click 'Post Comment'

Copyright © 2016 Susan Borkin

Thursday, December 3, 2015

'Twas the Night Before Writing

'Twas the week before deadline and all through the house,
An author was disgruntled and could only grouse.
Words were not flowing from her fingertips,
And after awhile, angry words flew from her lips.

“What was I thinking when I thought I wanted to write?
Each word that I scribble is so boring and trite.”
Where is the inspiration I dreamed I would hear?
My Muse is in hiding: she’s nowhere near!

“What to do? What to do?” she cried out.
With no one else home, the walls echoed her shout.
Perhaps there was an answer, some magic pill,
Or a wand to wave to conjure words at her will.

Alas and alack, no right words could she find!
She knew soon that she would lose her mind
And if she continued her angst with such worry and fret,
Her writing goals would never be met!

But then she remembered what she already knew––
The only way to the end was to work it through.
Like a whisper she heard “Put your butt in the chair,
And not only that, you must keep it there!”

“For the designated time you promised for today,
Put your fingers on the keyboard; it’s the only way.
There is no magic here; it is just doing the work.”
(Did she just hear her Muse chortle and smirk?)

So she set the timer on her desk clock,
And then, her phone ringer she set to block.
Any distraction or malingering tasks
Were now banned---need you ask…

What happened next to this sad author’s plight?
Oh how she hated when her Muse was so right!
Butt in the chair, fingers to the keys, clock set,
It all seemed perfect to produce and yet…

Something still was missing from this situation,
For she needed to pull words from her imagination.
She ruminated, thought, and these wild thoughts ran.
But nothing really happened until she began.

For all of her studying and planning and care,
She had forgotten the most important ingredient there,
She was no dummy; she might be considered smart,
But rule number one––she did have to start!

Take good care,

 


If you find yourself in a funk, contact me for an informative discovery session via phone or in person. Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more. 

Please jump in and respond on this blog, by clicking the green 'Comments' link just below.


If you are new to blogging, here are some instructions. If you are the first leave a comment, it will say '0 Comments' - just click that link. If you do not have one of the listed accounts, please choose either Name/URL or Anonymous from the profile list before you click 'Post Comment'

Copyright © 2015 Susan Borkin
Image Copyright: adam121 / 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, August 14, 2015

Change: Scary or Exciting?


Have you ever felt scared and excited at the same time? Feeling two such strong emotions at the same time can be confusing. But let’s look a little more closely at what these emotions mean.

First Day of School

Remember when you were a little kid and it was the first day of school? Perhaps you walked to school, or got a ride, took the bus or rode your bicycle. How did you feel on this important day? You may have been scared and not at all excited. (Think: When do I eat my lunch? Where is the bathroom? What if my teacher is mean?) Or, you might have been excited and not scared at all. (Think: I can wear my new school clothes. I’ll see my friends from the neighborhood. I am really grown up now!) 

Moving to a New Home

Do you remember a time when you moved, leaving behind your home or apartment? Scary feelings and thoughts might have been: Will I like the new neighborhood? Will I still see my old friends? What will happen to my cat? On the other hand, you might have been very excited, feeling and thinking: I’m moving to a wonderful new home. This is my dream house. I’m really looking forward to my new neighborhood. 

Starting a Creative Project

Do you remember the last time you started a big project? Perhaps you were writing an article, a book, or starting a new painting. You may have experienced scary feelings like: I have no idea what I’m doing! What was I thinking? What if I really can’t do this? You might have experienced excitement: I am so jazzed about finishing my book and getting it out in the world! I love the new direction of my work. This is going to be so great!

Embracing Both

In each of these examples and many more you can probably think of, it’s more than likely you experienced both scary and excited thoughts and feelings. When you become aware of this conflict, instead of shying away from it, consider embracing it. Congratulate yourself on your ability to hold two different emotions at the same time. Enjoy the roller coaster ride of mixed emotions. Inevitably, like the weather, feelings seldom stay exactly the same for long.

If you are going through transition or change, and need some help, let's set up a time to chat.

You can reach me at susan@susanborkin.com or by phone at (408) 973-7877.




Susan Borkin


P.S. Remember, if you haven’t done so before, take advantage of our Complimentary Coaching Consultation to increase your creativity and productivity. 

Image Copyright: nisha patel / SloDive

Copyright © 2015 Susan Borkin