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Everyone has a story to tell. It may be an event from your life or something entirely fictional, but we all have stories within us. In fact, storytelling is a fundamental part of what makes us human. It is a means of contextualising our understanding of the world and relating to others. In many cases, it can also help us confront our own emotions. Furthermore, creative writing has many cognitive benefits.

What are Cognitive Benefits?

In short, a cognitive benefit improves brain function or mental health. It could be that you become a more efficient problem solver or simply relieve some stress. Engaging in activities that promote cognitive benefits can help to prevent mental health conditions such as depression, whilst also reducing the likelihood of developing dementia.

Creative writing's cognitive benefits are plentiful. This is because writing, especially in an imaginative sense, forces you to use your brain in a different - yet still familiar - way. You have to look at things differently and put careful consideration into your choice of words. Plus, the satisfaction of finishing a piece of writing releases dopamine, which improves mood as well as motor and brain functions.

What Counts as Creative Writing?

The definition of creative writing varies depending on who you ask. In its simplest form, though, creative writing is any piece of writing that tells a story. Often, this story will convey a message or seek to elicit an emotion. However, this is not always the case.

Creative writing includes:

  • Novels
  • Short stories
  • Poetry
  • Plays
  • Songs
  • Speeches
  • Memoirs

This list is not exhaustive.

What are Creative Writing's Cognitive Benefits?

As we have mentioned, creative writing can improve brain function and improve mental health. But how? Consider this list of how creative writing provides cognitive benefits.

Organising Thoughts

Many of is, at one time or another, will have found ourselves fighting a whirlwind of thoughts. As soon as one thing enters our minds, something else sweeps in to take its place. This can result in a loss of focus and no small amount of frustration. Sometimes, as these thoughts race through our heads, we can end up lingering on unpleasant memories.

However, creative writing allows you to channel these thoughts into one place. It gets them out of your head and helps you to process them better. This type of writing is often known as "stream of consciousness"; you simply put pen to paper and let your thoughts flow out. It doesn't have to form a coherent structure, but you may be surprised where the process leads you.

One of the main advantages of this is that it relieves stress. Whatever was stuck in your head has now been made tangible. You can view it as words to throw away and forget about or the beginnings of a new project. By working through your chaotic thoughts, you can identify methods of controlling them and avoiding negative mindsets.

Addressing Strong Emotions

Everyone gets emotional sometimes. It's a natural part of being human. We feel things, and some things we feel more than others. However, there are many people who attempt to push those emotions deep down inside. This, science has proven, can have negative impacts on your health.

In fact, ignoring your emotions can lead to poor sleep, high stress, and lower immune function. It can also lead to the development of stomach ulcers, heart disease, and anger issues. Whilst it is advised to talk about your difficult emotions with others, sometimes this can feel difficult. Fortunately, writing can help you express them.

Creative writing can help you turn your feelings into a story. This helps you process your emotions and work through them. You can also use your writing as a means of expressing your emotions to others. If you turn your feelings into a story, your loved ones may better understand what you are experiencing.

Self-Awareness

When we write, we are often exposing parts of ourselves we weren't even aware of. Our vulnerabilities escape onto the page, and it's not until we reread our work that we realise. However, increased awareness of our own struggles, thoughts, and ideas is key to improving our understanding of our place in the world.

This self-awareness also plays into feelings of anxiety and depression. Often, we can struggle to pinpoint exactly what it is that is making us feel a certain way. When we write, however, our subconscious can tell us what has been bothering us.

Therefore, by writing and then reading what we have written, we can find solutions to the things that bother us.

Improve Your Attention Span

There is a popular study that claims adults now have attention spans of roughly 8 seconds. What this effectively means is that you should have tuned out of this article by now. Whilst the veracity of this study has been called into question, it is true that many people have shorter attention spans today than they did in the past.

So how can creative writing help with this? When you write, you are forcing your brain to focus on one task. However, you are not only doing one things. Many people don't realise it, but writing requires multitasking. You must write, think, and often read all at one.

Doing so channels your focus. You choose what goes on the page, but the need to keep your handwriting neat as well as to finish your thought keeps you going. And when one sentence is complete, another springs to mind and demands to be written. Furthermore, the more you write the stronger your focus will become.

Improve Memory

Older adults can often find themselves worrying about their memory. Creative writing provides the cognitive benefits of improved memory. As we have touched on before, when we write we are processing our thoughts in a more organised manner. This can help to contextualise them in our minds and make them easier to manage.

Moreover, the written word can be more reliable than our minds alone. Even a brief note on a scrap of paper can trigger a memory of an errand we have yet to do. When we write a story, we are forming a sequence of events in our minds that connect to one another. Forming these connections helps to strengthen our cognitive processes.

There is also evidence to suggest that handwriting, in particular, can create specific connections in our brains. The texture of paper, the weight of the pen, and even the smell of the ink can help improve our recall abilities. This is because sensory input plays a large role in forming memories.

Expand Knowledge

You may have heard it said that authors write what they know. What often isn't mentioned is that authors are constantly expanding what they know to tell stories. Most writers are open-minded people with a deep understanding of many topics and points of view. This is because they take the time to learn new things, hear different perspectives, and expand on what they already know.

One of creative writing's cognitive benefits is the opportunity it provides to learn new things. The great thing is that you never know exactly what you're going to find out. You might be writing a short story about someone who goes fishing and need to know how a fishing rod works. Alternatively, you might write about a walk in the woods and need to find out about the distinguishing features of different trees.

There is no end to the things you might discover. Many writers can attest to the "rabbit hole" effect, where one quick question leads to you read about more and more things. The simplest fragment of missing information can become the perfect opportunity to expand your knowledge.

Personal Alarms from Lifeline24

Here at Lifeline24 we believe in supporting your independence at home. A Lifeline24 alarm puts you in safe hands 24/7, 365 days a year. Simply press the button on your alarm or pendant and our Response Team will arrange help on your behalf.

This assistance could be a family member, friend, trusted neighbour, or the emergency services when necessary.

To find out more about our life-saving personal alarm service, read our helpful guideOrder your personal alarm today by calling our friendly customer service team on 0800 999 0400.

According to the government's Family Resources Survey, 6% of people in the UK provide unpaid care. That's a little over 4 million unpaid carers. They can be from a range of ages, from children to older adults. Most unpaid carers care for members of their family or close friends on a daily basis. The support that carers provide to their loved ones can involve anything from cooking meals and taking them to medical appointments to assisting with mobility, continence, and administering medication. But what does it mean to be a carer?

For some people, caring for their loved ones can be a full-time (unpaid) job. It can be highly demanding, both emotionally and physically, and it is important that carers also take time to care for themselves.

Paid carers are essentially doing the same job as unpaid carers, except that they can go home at the end of the day and take days off. It is, therefore, extremely important that as an unpaid carer, you make sure that you exercise self-care.

Many unpaid carers find it difficult to take time for themselves. They struggle with feelings of guilt if they cannot care for their loved one in the way that they want to, as much as they want to. It is important that you recognise and acknowledge these feeling if you have them.

Respite

According to Helping Hands, “While it’s admirable that carers go above and beyond for the person in their care, they can put their own health at risk. Even if it’s just for a short period, accepting a little extra support and looking after their own wellbeing is essential for carers to continue looking after their loved one”.

When a carer needs time off – whether it is for a holiday, a planned amount of time, or an emergency - respite cover can be brought in to take their place on a temporary basis. Respite cover can be arranged and supplied by professional carers with the knowledge and experience to look after their loved ones as well as being able to make them feel comfortable and at ease.

It is important to remember that everybody needs to have some time off, either to allow you to get away, or just to enjoy some fun time with your loved one. Respite care is the best way to do this.

Financial Support

Even if caring is not your official job, you may be entitled to an amount of Carer’s Allowance. There are several criteria that you must meet to be eligible, including a minimum number of hours each week that you are caring for your loved one, and a cap on your weekly income.

If you receive Pension Credit, your payments will increase when you start claiming Carer's Allowance. This claim can be made online on the Government website or by telephoning 0800 731 0297.

Carer's Allowance is a very useful benefit, which aims to make life easier for unpaid carers and the people they care for.

Get Extra Help

There is no harm in asking for extra help. Whether you need someone who can come in a couple of times a week to do the house cleaning, or an additional carer to help your loved one with specialist nursing care, getting some extra help can really take the pressure off.

Look After Yourself

You cannot expect to look after someone else if you are not well yourself. Self-care is essential and ensuring that you are physically healthy, happy, and emotionally well is vital both to you and the person you care for. Some ways that you can maintain your physical and mental health include:

  • Taking time to do things that you enjoy
  • Trying to take regular exercise
  • Eating healthy, nutritious food
  • Going for regular check-ups at the GP
  • Being honest about your needs
  • Trying meditation and mindfulness
  • Getting outside as much as you can
  • Discussing your struggles

Psychological Well-Being

Ensuring that you are psychologically well in relation to the work that you are doing as a carer is essential. To maintain a healthy relationship with your caring role, you should ensure that you:

  • Are realistic with yourself, your loved one, and other people
  • Accept help when it is offered
  • Confide in people about how you are feeling
  • Try to support your loved one’s independence
  • Find positivity in the relationship that you have with your loved one

Being an unpaid carer for your loved one can be challenging and demanding. However, there is help out there that can help to take the pressure off without you losing control of the care that you provide. Ultimately, being a carer can also be a very rewarding experience that brings you closer to your loved one. Think of it as an opportunity to spend quality time with someone you love.

More Support for Carers

Here at Lifeline24, we offer a life-saving personal alarm service throughout the UK. If you care for a relative or friend, you may want to consider a personal alarm system. Having an alarm in place can give you the reassurance you need to support your loved one's independence. You won't need to worry about popping out to the shop because your loved one can call for help with one touch of a button in an emergency.

Lifeline alarm users each receive a lightweight, waterproof pendant. Pressing a button on the pendant will raise an instant alert in our 24-hour Response Centre, based in the UK. From there, an expert operator will answer the call and reassure the alarm user. We will arrange whatever help is needed - whether that's calling on a carer or neighbour to visit and assist, or calling for an ambulance on the alarm user's behalf.

To find out more about the Lifeline alarm service, click here to read our simple guide. Alternatively, you can contact our friendly team online or by telephone at any time. We're always on hand to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call on 0800 999 0400. Prices start from just £12.99 per month or £119 for a whole year (that's 12 months service for the price of 9).

This article has been contributed by George Relish

Dining out is an experience that the whole family should enjoy, including the elder members of our family. However, we understand how it can be different when dining out with seniors who have mental health issues.

Please keep in mind that dining out is not recommended for everyone. Depending on the type of mental health issue that your loved one has, as well as its severity, there are definitely those who might not benefit from this experience.

It’s still best to seek a doctor’s advice before going out with your senior, especially if you intend to go to a crowded, public place that might trigger the patient.

Those who have obtained that “go” signal, though, will find it very rewarding. Not only will it give your seniors the opportunity to bond with you, but it will also allow them to go out into the community and feel more welcomed.

To further help you out, we’d like to share with you the following tips to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for both you and your loved one:

Choose Your Restaurant Wisely

Not all restaurants are fit for someone who’s suffering from mental health issues. Therefore, it’s best to do your research beforehand. We highly recommend visiting the restaurant first. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as how long the waiting time is, or whether they have comfortable seating.

There are also restaurants where staff receive advanced training on customer service and conflict handling. Finally, don’t forget to check the bathroom and its proximity to your planned seating.

Opt For an Early Reservation

Another thing that you should consider is the time of your reservation. It is ideal to choose an off-peak time when the restaurant is going to be less crowded and a lot quieter.

Keep in mind that there are mental health issues that can be triggered by noise. For instance,  according to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with the disease are often sensitive to noise. Exposure to certain sounds (including background noises such as passing traffic or other people’s conversations) can cause uncertainty, anger, and repetitive behaviours.

Discreetly Let Others Know That Your Loved One Has a Mental Health Issue

This is optional, but some carers find it more comfortable and convenient to have “awareness cards” handy. These are small cards that you can discreetly hand out to let people know that your loved one has a mental health issue.

There are numerous free downloadable resources online. You can always create and print cards yourself. It can be as simple as saying: “Please be patient. The person I am with has a condition known as (insert mental health issue here).” You can then place a short definition of the condition and its common symptoms and triggers at the back of the card.

Go On a Picnic Instead

Whoever said that dining out can only be done inside a restaurant? There’s no harm in exploring other options as long as they’re comfortable for your loved one. Another perk of “eating out” is the chance to order your food from a selection of different establishments.

For instance, you can order from another place for the kids, while you can get food for your senior from an establishment that offers elderly discounts.

Be Prepared

You need to prepare yourself as well. Caring for a senior loved one indoors is one thing, but going out with them, especially in a public setting, is something else entirely. It can be mentally and physically demanding.

Here are some steps that you can take:

Seek Professional Advice

You can ask your loved one's doctor for advice on things that you can expect as well as some advice on any specific steps that you can do if your loved one suddenly has an episode.

You Might Need to Go to the Toilet with Your Loved One

If this is your first time taking your loved one out on your own, then be aware that you might need to get into the bathroom with them. Depending on the senior’s age, it is not uncommon for one to need assistance while they’re in the stall.

Order for Your Senior

Lengthy menus and small fonts can cause a lot of stress and confusion. Hence, some elderly care professionals suggest that a family member orders for a senior instead. This will also allow you to choose something that fits the dietary requirement of your companion. Just don’t forget to take their tastes into account to provide a more enjoyable experience.

Don’t Forget to Bring Some Supplies

Some seniors need special utensils in order to eat comfortably. We also recommend bringing wipes and other necessities that they might need for cleaning and bathroom trips.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack a change of clothing (at least one set) along with an extra jumper or blanket in case your loved one gets cold.

Learn More About Your Loved One’s Healthcare Plan

If your loved one is in a care home, or receives additional care, you should be mindful of their healthcare plan. This may include dietary restrictions and steps to take during an emergency.
Bring a medical kit along as well. This should include any medical documentation that you might need and, of course, any prescription that your senior needs to take before or after your meal.

Be Thoughtful and Patient

Your senior may take a while to do everything, from ordering their food to finishing it. It’s best not to rush them with anything. You should also be on the lookout for any indication that they are starting to get tired or uncomfortable already. After all, it would be wise to take them home before they start getting anxious, agitated, or uncooperative.

A Positive Experience

Taking a senior out for a quiet afternoon and a delicious meal shouldn’t be impossible. It simply takes a bit of patience and preparation.

By keeping the tips that we have shared with you in mind, we are confident that you’ll be able to enjoy this bonding moment. After all, how many of these events can you still share with your loved one? It’s best to cherish these opportunities while they’re still here.

Extra Support from Lifeline24

Whether dining out with seniors who have mental health problems, or providing extra support it home, it can be reassuring to know that help is always available. Choosing to purchase a Lifeline24 alarm system guarantees extra peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

To find out more about our alarm service, check out our personal alarm guide. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team on 0800 999 0400.

Want to order your alarm or have a question? Get in touch!