How to Be a Happy (or at least less sullen) Writer

ccflickr_BarbaraM._Happy_051710Today’s post is brought to you by my partner, Toku McCree (pronounces toe-KOO). Toku is a mindfulness expert and blogger at MindFitMove. Writing can be grueling and disappointing work, and without proper self-care, we risk falling in a self-loathing vortex of booze, cigarettes, Netflix binges, and chocolate cake. So Toku is here today to talk to us about the link between writing and happiness and how writers can take better care of themselves. And at the end of the post, he has a unique offer for a 30 Day Happiness Challenge for anyone who wants to write happier this year. So without further ado, Toku will tell us how to be a happy (or at least less sullen) writer.

How to Be A Happy (or at least less sullen) Writer
By Mindfulness Expert Toku

Writers are supposed to be tortured souls right? We all know the stories of great writers who took their lives or drowned their woes in drugs and alcohol. In fact, whenever I think about the correlation between literary success and suffering it’s almost enough to make me close my word processor and play Angry Birds instead.

But then I start to wonder if this connection is really true. And so I thought I’d do some digging and write a short post examining if writers are prone to depression and if so what they can do about it.

Question #1: Are writers more likely to be depressed than regular people?

While there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports the tortured artist theory, there have been a few studies linking writing and depression.

  • One study by Nancy Andreasen at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop found that 80% of their writers in residents displayed some form of depression.
  • Another, a John’s Hopkins professor, found that successful creatives were 8x more likely to suffer from serious depression than the general population.

So there is some evidence that being a writer (at least a good one) may increase your tendency towards depression. Which leads us to our second question:

Why are writers prone to depression?
Some people think that great writers feel more deeply. Others, that the criticism writers must endure get them down. Still others have suggested it’s their solitary lives that lead to loneliness and depression. And some recent studies have backed up these ideas.

A study by Austrian Professor Andrea Fink showed a link between innate creativity and the inability to suppress the precuneus while thinking. The precuneus is a part of the brain that’s been linked to how much you reflect on your experience.

And while this part of the brain lights up for most people while resting, Fink’s study found it to be very active in the brains of writers.

“Fink’s hypothesis is that the most creative people are continually making associations between the external world and their internal experiences and memories.” She also found that “this inability to suppress the precuneus is seen most dominantly in two types of people: creatives and psychosis patients.”

So HOORAY! your fears were well founded, because you love to write you might also like to pull the wings of flies.

But not so fast, while the studies do indicate that depression, sadness, and emotional depth may be more prevalent in writers, they don’t say you can’t do anything about it.

Much like people with a family history of heart disease, your genetics are not your destiny. Instead, it simply means that if you are afflicted with quotidian tendencies you have to work a little harder to find the joy that others experience.

So here are 5 simple ways you can use writing to create more Happiness:

1. Help Others:
Many psychologists believe you have set point of happiness based on early experiences, but they’ve also found you can raise that set point by helping others.

So instead of spending all of your time writing alone, try joining a writers group or even better teaching writing to disadvantaged youth. Not only will teaching young writers improve your understanding of the process, but by helping others, you’ll be getting outside your own head and begin seeing writing as more of a service and less an endless pursuit for perfection.

2. Be Grateful:
A recent study at UC Berkley found that people who wrote about things they were grateful for felt better about their lives, complained of aches and pains less, and were more optimistic about the future.

So while writing about your new dark and tortured main character may be just what you need for your book, make sure you take time to write about some of the good things that happened to you as well.

3. Practice Mindfulness:
You might not think spending more alone time with your brain is a good solution for an angsty writer, but the practice of mindfulness can help rewire your depressive tendencies.

A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin found that mediation helped people shift from the more depression prone right-brain to the more optimistic left brain.

One simple way practice mindful writing is by doing morning pages. Which is the practice of stream of consciousness writing done every morning. Not only will this exercise clear space for your creativity to flourish, it may help you undo your negative thought patterns as well.

4. Smile:
While fake smiling has been shown to cause negative emotions, the real deal has been linked with happiness. So next time you write just try putting on a smile.

Finding time to write is hard so when you do find some time, makes sure you reflect on how lucky you are and put on the smile to match.

5. Find Support:
Perhaps the biggest mistake writers make is trying to go it alone. Happiness isn’t a one man/woman show. If you want to be happy, you have to interact and work with others to make it happen.

So instead of becoming a recluse, join a group of people working to have happier lives. It could be a group of writers, a running club, or even a religious community. No matter what the purpose or intention, make time to spend with others who can support you. Not only will it make happiness easier, you’ll build the network you need when you’re feeling down.

A Special Invitation for Word Savant Readers
While the habits in this post can help you write more and stay happy, experience has taught me that to be super effective at creating lasting happiness you need support.

Which is why I’d like to invite you to join me and over 150 amazing people for my 30 Day Happiness Challenge.

To design this challenge, I dug through all of my experience from:

  • 2+ years I spent living at a Zen Monastery
  • 2+ years I spent learning all about habit formation
  • And the over 200+ posts I’ve written about mindfulness

And I packed it into 30 days of crazy dense, crazy awesome content that will help you be a lot happier.

In fact, there is so much value and wisdom packed into these 30 days, that even if you only read 25% of the posts and put them into practice it will totally change your life. And because I believe in the power of generosity I’m giving it away FREE.

Why is this challenge great for writers?
Because I’m a writer, the challenge includes writing as an integral part of the process. So not only will the course help you create happiness it will encourage you write on a regular basis.

Why is this invitation special?
Because I know writers struggle with happiness more than most people, I want to make it even easier for you to sign up.

So here’s the deal: If you sign up today using this special link not only will you get 30 days of my most valuable ideas about how to create happiness, in addition I’m going to give you a couple of bonuses I’ve created just for Word Savant readers.

Bonus #1 – My 5 Min Meditation Course
Everyone who signs up will get an access key to my online meditation course, where you will learn how to quiet your mind and increase creativity in just 5 mins a day.

Bonus #2 – 5 Happiness Wake Up Calls
The first 5 people that sign up through the link will receive my premium 30 min Happiness Wake Up Call.

During this call I’ll work with you one on one to help you discover the 3 simple things you can do to increase your level of happiness. We’ll also talk about one or more of the obstacles that are standing in the way of you feeling great everyday.

Happiness isn’t just something you should write about, its something you should create for yourself and those around you. Stop being a tortured soul and start being the happy successful writer that you know you can be.

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