How writing can improve your mood and keep your brain moving forward…

In the process of writing my last post about AI and writing, I learned quite a bit about exactly how good writing is for our brains. First of all I learned that writing by hand is better for the brain than typing. Although a slower task, research indicates that physically writing things down appears to make the writer become more selective in what they write. What’s more, when you pen words on paper, the neurons in your brain fire signals at rapid speed, enabling you to make more neural connections.

Writing is a stimulating yet strenuous activity for the brain. When you write, all parts of your brain are actively engaged. Thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity, it can grow and change over time. Just as athletes train their bodies, writers can do the same with their brains.

The process of recalling something, writing it down, and reading it back on paper boosts memory and comprehension, leading to improved cognitive processing. Given that many areas of the brain are engaged, the more you write, the more neural connections are formed within your brain.

Writing every day can benefit everyone, not only professional writers. It improves your memory, builds vocabulary, and refines your communication skills. Writing can also be very relaxing, especially if you lead a busy or stressful life.

When it comes to emotional stability and development, writing can be quite therapeutic. Writing gives some structure and organization to anxious thoughts and feelings. It can help the writer feel more in control of their negative moods, thus helping them get past suppressed difficult or traumatic events.

I have always been a avid writer since I first learned how. Writing is my way to have someone to talk to about difficult thoughts or feelings, a way to process my feelings to make me feel better. These days I find writing to be essential to both my mental health and brain health. Although I sometimes find it quite challenging for my brain, I do need this challenge to keep moving forward after a few serious head injuries.

5 Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

What is great about Spanish Peaks Living?

Nine years ago this month, Mike and I drove down from Fort Collins to choose a few acres in Navajo to buy. We didn’t know much about this area, only that we loved how it felt to our suburban souls. It took us another year to build our passive solar home facing the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Mount Mestas to our west.

I was reminded again early this morning why I love living here. I woke up around 6:30 AM to see an unobstructed view of a bright red sunrise to our southeast. This is BIG SKY country to me, where the landscape and the silence are the main characters! Every time I go outside in the morning I stop and feel astounded by the silence. This is what the earth used to be like. Maybe a few bird sounds, but otherwise perfect silence…

Sure there are also unattractive features to this area, but the land is encouraging and haunting all at once, and the summers are glorious!

Our first summer here we had so much fun exploring the back roads and back stories, like this dilapidated adobe schoolhouse slowly sinking back into the earth west of here…

or taking the train up to Fir to hear the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band play in a big mountain meadow.

When I first met Mike he said he wasn’t moving again until he could look at something besides the house across the street.

We found this cartoon in a magazine and laughed together about it. Then we went in search of someplace with truly ‘spectacular views.’

We found those here and so much more…

Create Your Own “Lifetime Achievement Award”

While watching the Golden Globes last night, I decided it was time for me to create my own lifetime achievement award. While watching so many ‘stars’ in their fancy outfits, it becomes too easy to undervalue our own achievements, but only we know how difficult it may have been for us to choose a certain life path and achieve what we have in our own chosen endeavors.

Only we know what struggles we have endured to overcome major obstacles to be where we are today.

To identify our own achievements we must first ignore any outside opinions and judgments, because no one knows like we do how hard we may have fought to overcome major fears just to become our best selves today. I know for myself I often wonder why I could not have been more fearless in the choices I have made, and yet I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons for that.

For now just focus on your achievements instead of what you may perceive as your failures. For example, instead of only seeing the failures you have had in your past, focus on the fact that you now enjoy a few wonderful, genuine love relationships.

My list of lifetime achievements includes the fact that I did finally find love, I have put up a valiant fight to be nothing but myself and celebrate that, I have generally followed my dreams, I’ve seen much of the world, and I’m proud and happy with myself at age 67.

If I continue to focus on that, and not on what I haven’t done, than I am indeed a success in my own mind

1883: “You have the journey – that’s it!”

I have been blown away by watching the Yellowstone prequel “1883” in the past week or so. I did not know a “western” could be so poetic, authentic and full of heart. I loved it so much I watched it again after I got back from Christmas and loved it even more!

First, a little background. I was raised in Kansas near the prairie where my ancestors arrived many decades before me. When I first started reading books, I loved stories about the pioneer West. The first stories I ever wrote were about Native Americans and their ponies. Then I started reading everything by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the personal journals of westward women. I only wanted to play “pioneer woman” as a kid. I guess you could say I have been unconsciously searching for the perfect “western” my whole life. I finally found it in “1883.”

First of all I love that the main character and narrator is a teenage woman. The whole story is told from Elsa’s perspective, with just the right combination of authentic and sensitively-written narrative and dialogue. I felt like I could see into Elsa’s heart, while also understanding the other characters’ inner lives as well. As the writer, Taylor Sheridan, explains in “Behind the Story,” he wanted this story to feel as intimate for the audience as reading a good novel, or even the personal journal of a young woman on a wagon train heading west. He does a masterful job of that, and yet I keep wondering how a man could have such an intimate understanding of a teenage woman’s worldview.

As I think about it now, the ever-changing landscape is the main character in this story, that and the silence. So many of Elsa’s observations remind me of my own after moving to rural Colorado eight years ago. My amazement at the silence and beauty of each sunrise and sunset, the comfort of the wildlife passing by our home each day, the glorious seasons we experience so intimately, this is what I love about living out here. Elsa’s story seems to authentically capture the beauty and the violence of the American West over one hundred years ago around the time the transcontinental railroad began changing everything. There is so much truth in some of her observations like:

“I think cities have weakened us as a species.”

Another profound aspect of Elsa’s story is how living in the West allowed so much more freedom for women. I enjoyed watching her relationship with her mother develop as her Mom tries to remind her of the limitations of being a woman in 1880s America. Elsa rebels every chance she gets. Elsa enjoyed the loss of rules and customs as they moved west. The big transition came when she decided she was a cowboy and got herself some pants to wear instead of dresses.

I loved the writer’s sensitive portrayal of the other characters, especially when it came to ‘race.’ Race is not a word I use, because I do not believe we humans are different ‘races.’ But back in 1880s America, blacks were treated badly as a general rule. Thomas, the old Civil War friend of Shea, played by the wagon train boss Sam Elliott, understood how badly others could treat him for being black, as he stated at one point, “You ain’t never been whipped.” Native Americans play an important role in this saga and mostly as sympathetic characters including members of the Comanche and Crow tribes. The true “bad guys” of this Western are “bandits.”

Suffice to say this is by far the best western story I have ever seen. It shows the beauty and severe violence of the American West in no uncertain terms, and I believe it may be more authentic as a story than any other I have read. I found the very last phrase in this story so vivid and relevant to my state of mind these days –

“There is a moment when your dreams and memories merge together and form a perfect world. That is heaven, and each heaven is unique. It is the world of you…”

“I’ve spent too many years at war with myself…”

Every time I listen to Sting sing “Consider me gone” I get stuck on these words. Why do we spend so much time picking on ourselves? As a psychologist I assume we learn how to do this from our overly self-critical parents, and then carry on the practice by habit. Some say these patterns get stuck in our brains and are almost impossible to fight against or change.

I know I have been far too self-effacing for as long as I can remember and then, of course, others along the way helped me become even more critical. Now, in my 60s, I’m still working at fighting this pattern in various ways. It helps so much to have a close friend or life partner who points out how hard we can be on ourselves. I remember back in my late 40s I gained a lot of new insight when I read Gloria Steinem’s book “Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions” but this is a process that will last forever I’m afraid.

The three Carter kids at Grandma’s house at Christmas

Just recently I was rearranging things and came across a small photo of myself at around age three, looking pretty sassy in my new Easter clothes. Now I focus for a few minutes everyday on that little girl, on loving her all the way through and sending good thoughts for the many ways she might feel really good about herself for the rest of her life. I feel so much compassion for the battles she has fought in her war against herself and visualize how much easier her life could have been if she had learned self-love at an early age. I seems it has always been easier to be critical rather than compassionate towards myself.

I watched a marvelous 2005 movie recently called, “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.” It’s about a retired older woman, played wonderfully by Joan Plowright, who befriends a young man, played by Rupert Friend, (YUM!) by chance on the streets of London. It’s has a lot of insights into aging and how we treat our elders with a number of great lines, but the one that keeps coming back to me is:

“It’s very important to praise people a lot early on, otherwise they might die of disappointment.

Buddha & Me: A Few Of My Best Buddha Photos

I have had this Buddha statue for twenty years now, and taken many pictures of him in all seasons and at the few homes I have lived at in that time. I bought him for my 47th birthday, after I bought my very first home in Loveland Colorado. I had two great shelties back then, Mica and Calla.

A few years later I moved in with Mike in Fort Collins

He had a magnificent backyard with over thirty aspens in it. I placed Buddha under a big old Upright Willow tree and then planted flowers in front of him. I had Lilies of the Valley, Johnnie Jump-ups, Sweet Williams, Hosta and Bleeding Hearts. By then I had my dog named Rasta.

With our thoughts we make the world.

Oh how my garden grew! I called it my Peace Garden.

I took photos of Buddha in all types of weather back there. Buddha loved his coats of snow!

Then we moved to Walsenburg to begin building our solar home west of there… We rented a rundown hundred year old miner’s home there and Buddha was not so happy sitting out back in the weeds. I asked him and he said, “YUCK!” He said,

“Build me a glorious garden with a tremendous view of the mountains, so we did.”

The garden grew and grew and Buddha smiled.

Sometimes I could barely see him, but he didn’t mind…

…because he knew that spring would come again in all of its brilliant natural glory!

What kind of character do you wish to manifest?