Writer wellness is a journey, not a goal. It is an attainable path for a sustainable writing routine that is built in small ways of taking care of yourself. I teach at an adaptive sports and fitness center. I wake up every day with the purpose of making Tai Chi possible for anyone in any setting. My purpose in writing this column is to make wellness possible for writers in an equally accessible way.
As defined by the World Health Organization, wellness is not an absence of illness. It is a practice that invests in the well-being of your body, mind, and spirit. There is an entire industry that wants you to believe you need large investments of time and money to achieve this goal.
Writer wellness is not expensive, time-consuming, or possible only with special equipment. You do not need a meditation room with incense and tufted cushions. You only need ten minutes. If you don’t have ten minutes, you can still nurture your body and mind with just ten breaths. Daily practice is what counts. Consistency is more important than length of time. And with a few small exercises you can care for your spirit.
I used to go to a yoga studio three or four times a week. It was something I needed and was given space for. I don’t have the same kind of time now. I have to find ten minutes wherever I am, whether it’s in my office, at a conference, or in the short time to myself while brewing coffee in the morning.
Writer wellness encompasses body, mind, and spirit
Taking care of your eyes is very important. Long hours staring at the screen not only fatigue the muscles around your eyes but are stressful to your brain. Blue screen time disrupts your circadian rhythm, leading to health issues. Spend a few moments looking away from the computer screen. Boost your relaxation by focusing on something green, such as the plant in your writing space or a tree outside.
Likewise, it is counterproductive to sit for long sessions without stretching. The more tense your muscles become, the less oxygen circulates to your brain. Muscle spasms and compressed spines are results of sitting too long in a chair. Equally important is opening up circulation to your wrists so you can keep typing for years to come. Stretching can be as simple as wiggling your toes or standing and extending your arms above your head.
Your brain can only process so much information in an hour. Take breaks and give your brain a rest, ideally ten minutes every hour. Our brains love to problem solve, so focusing on something else lets your subconscious mind do the work. This is why I recommend listening to birdsong or going for a walk. Studies show that spending time in nature boosts creativity.
The other aspect to taking care of the body is mindful breathing. This simply means focusing on your breathing for a set amount of time. Where your mind goes, your energy goes. When your mind is scattered across several tasks, your energy is equally scattered. Taking time to focus only on breathing brings energy back to yourself. It also relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing your brain to hum in the background and come up with creative solutions.
To learn a ten-second breathing meditation click here. I use this to focus in the morning and between projects to shift my creative mindset.
Creativity is a deeply personal act. Writers make themselves vulnerable when putting their work out there. In your writing journey there will be critical reviews, critiques that may not always be helpful, and people who will put roadblocks in your path. This is why taking care of your spirit is equally important as taking care of your body and mind. Setting boundaries to ward off energy vampires and taking steps to protect the inner bark of your creative tree are key to keeping things positive.
Be a champion of your own well-being with these simple practices
Writing doesn’t come with a coach, trainer, or physiotherapist. But you can be a champion of your own well-being with these simple practices. Choose one thing and try it for a few weeks. When it becomes routine add another technique. You will feel a subtle but powerful change in your approach to writing.
These practices for body, mind, and spirit all create steps on the path to a happy and healthy writing life.
Ambre Dawn Leffler is a Tai Chi instructor, gardener, and weather geek who writes about vegetables, seasons, communing with nature, and the interconnections of mind/body. She loves trees and cherishes time in their presence. Learn more with her free Wellness Kit for Writers and on her website ambredawnleffler.com. You can also follow her on Instagram.