Today, I have an awesome guest here on This is Lit–the founder of Beeja Meditation, Will Williams!
Will is a former music industry executive who then became a meditation teacher. He’s also the author of The Effortless Mind, released in May 2019.
Did you know that writers are eight times more likely to suffer from mental illness than those who don’t pursue writing as a career? Scary, I know.
I’ve always wondered how we as writers can nurture our own mental health. Will was kind enough to write an entire post about it for me.
Over to Will.
Being a writer is often a solitary business. The pressure to create is high, and this pressure may be a good way of getting us at our desk, ready to tap away. However, pressure also causes an inhibition of the pre-frontal cortex, which plays a critical role in creativity. And so there we are prepped and primed to let the words flow, and it feels a struggle. So we stimulate ourselves, with caffeine, sugar or whatever our fix of the day is, hoping that we can stimulate our way to literary genius. But still the flow feels constricted. But a stimulated nervous system is rarely conducive to creative flow. Perhaps now the bohemian imagery of yore comes to mind, necking whiskey or absinth until the wee hours of the morning, hoping our nocturnal subconscious will deliver. And perhaps we will get a few nuggets here and there. But yet again, this is rarely an unsustainable path, because our pre-frontal cortex tends to recharge itself when we sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am. It’s almost as if the romanticised view of what’s good for our creativity is the exact opposite of what our neurology and neurochemistry are asking for!
We may also find ourselves gravitating towards sugary and processed foods. This may be for convenience while we try and maintain the flow, or it may be because we’re feeling blocked and a little bit self destructive. As understandable as this is, our ‘second brain’ resides in our stomach, via something called our enteric nervous system, and when we cloud our second brain with junk items, it also clouds our main brain, and we are left feeling sluggish and under a cloud psychologically. We also have a 100 trillion bacterial network of microbes headquartered in our gut, and if we feed these microbes processed, sugary foods, then the bad bacteria will begin to dominate and it will effect the neuroplasticity of our brain, our neurochemical makeup, and the expression of our epigenetic switches, all of which will create a barrier between you and your creativity. Your gut is also where over 90% of your serotonin gets created, and this little endorphine always seems to correspond with a sense of joie de vie and inspiration, so it’s good to feed your belly the foods that will help get your juices flowing.
In terms of other tips, you cannot beat good, regular sleep – as the age old expression goes, an hour before midnight is worth two after. This is because our circadian rhythms are wired from 2.5 million years of human evolution to go to bed early so we can take advantage of melatonin secretion between 9pm and 1am, and liver detox processes between 10pm and 2am. These two processes are absolutely key to sustained good health – both physically and mentally. I would suggest it’s worth trying this out for a week, and maybe do a yoga nidra exercise before bed to help you nod off. If you’re anything like many of our students who tried this, you’ll find you’ll soon feel amazing.
Being surrounded by nature is another huge boon for your mental health, as well as your creativity – we evolved for millions of years in nature, and recent neuroscience shows that being in contact with nature puts our brain more in the alpha state range, from where anxiety decreases and creativity flows.
Meditation styles that have their emphasis on flow are also really good for mental health and creative output. Focuses based practises are quite hard when your mind is a bit zany, whereas flow based meditation such as Beeja, is SO much easier to do, and vastly more enjoyable. You can fit it in anytime, anywhere, and immediately get yourself in a positive mindset, from where it’s easy to be productive and creative. There are times when I find myself feeling a bit stuck, so I do a cheeky little meditation and then the words begin to endlessly flow and crucially, the quality tends to be super high. And even more crucially, I get to spend my days feeling good, and can go to bed smiling.
Another really good tip if you’re feeling stuck, is to write with your non-dominant hand for ten minutes to activate your right hemisphere so you can benefit from more globalised thinking, which is good for both mental health and creativity.
Some gentle exercise is also super useful when we are sat in our chair all day. It helps our lymphatic system begin to drain, and helps to get our blood flowing. However, as tempting as it is do high intensity workouts, the most sustainably enriching approach is to do low intensity workouts such as gentle forms of yoga, pilates, or swimming.
In conclusion, there are many ways we can amp up our wellbeing and simultaneously aid our creative process, and of them all, I would begin with meditation, as it acts as a cornerstone of wellbeing that gives you the energy and motivation to then make positive choices such as exercise and good diet, without even having to try!
About Will Williams
A former music industry executive and insomnia sufferer, Will discovered meditation after he used it to cure his own chronic insomnia. Will William’s meditation expertise is based on over 11 years’ experience training with renowned meditation masters across the globe. Will teaches classes and courses from his Beeja HQ in London and runs regular weekend retreats across the UK. Will leads a team of Beeja meditation teachers worldwide, and will be opening new centres in Berlin, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles this year. Will founded World Meditation Day which takes place on the 15th of May, and this year will be launching the new BEEJA meditation app. Will is also working with the OECD to introduce meditation to all primary and secondary schools globally by 2030, with a trial initiative rolling out in 2020, with 20 schools in the UK expected to take part.
Isn’t this great advice? I found it very helpful and I hope you do too!