Recently, I’ve written quite a few posts on the theme of friendship.
Reflecting upon this aspect of our lives has brought me to the realisation that there is a unique, shared and comforting experience in being part of the blogging ‘community’. While we don’t have blogging ‘chat rooms’ or spaces as such (or at least not that I’m aware of. I know there used to be such shared spaces hosted by WordPress with daily challenges, community hubs and so forth, but they seem to have disappeared from my view – if they are still there somewhere please let me know 🙂 ), we still have avenues of interaction with each other through comments, likes, sharing and collaborative posts.
I’m over two and a half years into my blogging adventure, and some of you have come to be familiar ‘faces’ in this journey. I have become familiar with some of your blogs, and have learned a bit about you as individuals from what you have shared, and often look forward to seeing your updates, as well as seeing you interacting with mine.
In a recent post on friendship I reflected upon the benefits of friendships and long term trusted connections in our lives.
And I have come to realise that this online shared space where we can express our deeper thoughts about our lives quite freely is in fact a real blessing, opportunity and comfort as we journey through not only our blogs, but in a remote yet potentially significant way, our lives together.
There is something about sharing the human experience that makes us feel less alone, don’t you think? And while nothing can replace face to face and real time connection with people we care about, blogging adds an extra dimension to our lives in which we can communicate some of our deepest thoughts and express parts of ourselves that perhaps we can’t do so freely with the people we meet with face to face, or at least not in the same way.
I realise that I really value this, and all of you, as we encourage each other in our blogs, and also our lives.
It is a gift and a blessing to share this journey, even in some small way, with you. Wouldn’t it be something if in years to come we have a community of people who mutually encourage and edify each other as we go through life?
As I approach my third year of blogging in a few months, I am certainly grateful that I began this adventure and journey of discovery and am very glad that I can share some of it with you. x
I haven’t as yet had the privilege of visiting South Africa or Norway, but from the people I know who have either lived in or visited these countries I have heard that they are beautiful and unique places. I am so fascinated to know what life is like there, so a big ‘hello and welcome’ to all of you from these places, and thank you for stopping by to visit my blog.
A couple of years ago I visited the Czech Republic, notably Prague, and I absolutely loved it. If you want to read some of my posts on my time there visit my ‘Travel’ section (although coming to think about it, I’m not sure if I ever finished writing those travel diaries).
My impressions of Prague were that it was vibrant, full of life, history, culture, and amazing musical and artistic talent from ordinary people busking and displaying their art on the streets. It is a beautiful place, and I would love to go back again some day, so hello to all my blogging friends in the Czech Republic.
You are all most welcome to let me know a bit about your country, in the comments below. 🙂
This time of year can be quite lonely for some people, and I touched upon this in an earlier Winter Survival Guide post about not facing loneliness alone.
One might be faced with the conundrum of whether to retreat from the social aspects of this season for fear that it will make you feel more out of place and alone, or whether to step out of your comfort zone to embrace potential new opportunities.
Others might be looking forward to all of the chances to connect with friends old and new.
I’ve been on both sides now. I know what it is like to feel alone, lonely and with few friends, or to be struggling with anxiety and while wanting to be and feel part of something, at the same time wanting to retreat from the overwhelming social pressures that can get too much for a friendly yet sometimes introverted soul. I also have more recently enjoyed the blessings of genuine friendships including a wide range of friends from work colleagues, people I’ve met through other friends, and people I’ve met through Church.
Wherever you find yourself on the social spectrum at this point in time, I’d like to encourage you that this time of year may be a good one for you to take a step forward and to make some positive connections.
At the weekend I attended my local church for a Remembrance Sunday service and although this is the place I usually go to worship, I know that it is very welcoming to anyone and everyone to come in. Even if you’re not a church goer, or don’t have any particular faith, you may feel comfort and connection in going along to an event or service depending on what you are comfortable with and hopefully meeting genuine, gentle, kind, caring and loving people. At this time of year there is sure to be much you can get involved in.
For example, my church has been involved with a Christmas ‘shoebox appeal’, (Samaritan’s Purse appeal) where individuals fill up decorative shoeboxes with toys, stationery and such like for children across the world who otherwise wouldn’t get gifts at Christmas, along with the cost of postage. The church is a collection point for people to drop off their boxes, and then they will coordinate with the charity to fly these shoeboxes to different countries across the world to bring love, joy and gifts to children who might not receive anything. We pray for the children and although it is a Christian appeal, it is open to anyone and everyone to get involved and contribute. My friend at work (who is an atheist) lovingly filled up a box and I took her contribution to church. Other people got together at the church on a Saturday to decorate some of the shoeboxes and to help pack them up. Maybe something like this, no matter what your beliefs are or are not, is a chance for you to get involved with your local community, meet caring people and even if just for an afternoon, build up a sense of connection.
My church is also hosting things like a quiz night, crafts afternoons, and a community choir, in addition to the various services which visitors may feel more comfortable attending around Remembrance Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.
If you prefer something that isn’t faith based there are also many other things you can get involved in such as helping out at a homeless shelter (although in my city many have a Christian foundation), soup kitchen, joining a team to take hot food to homeless people, or you could attend live music, craft workshops and a host of other events that will bound to be proliferating around this time of the year.
It may help you to feel more connected, even if just for a little while, if you are facing a lonely season, and even if you are not, it may be a wonderful opportunity to make new connections and participate in some new and exciting experiences.
We all need each other, and this time of year can often make it easier to reach out so why not take that step?
If you are already well connected, and perhaps involved in for example a Church, community centre or charity, why not reach out to those who may need some support, invite people in, and show some kindness and community spirit. Create activities that are accessible for all and that will help people feel more involved and connected no matter where they are coming from.
It can feel like the political situations, leaders and institutions that govern us are full of mistakes, confusion, dishonesty and self seeking – we can either allow ourselves to feel negative emotions and have embittered thoughts about this and the people who aren’t doing right, or we can choose to focus our attention on the sphere of influence we have in the lives we live, in our friendships, families, communities, schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, and make a positive difference, little by little, day by day – it may not change the world, but it may change your world around you and the lives of those in it.
What is it about blogging – whether reading and following blogs, and / or writing and updating your own blog/s that keeps you coming back for more? It’s an interesting point to ponder, and one which I’d like to think about and explore in this post, and possibly subsequent posts. Now, I know some of you blog for monetary purposes, I’m personally a ‘fledgling’ blogger and it’s not something I do, it’s not where I am on my blogging journey, not yet at least, however for those off you who do, I’ve noticed a few things: 1. Your passion drives your blogging ventures as much as any financial impetus, and that’s what brings authenticity to your work. 2. Earning money is not your sole reason for blogging, there is clearly something more than that, whether that be self expression, sharing life lessons or displaying your creative talents, and this could be why you have readers coming back faithfully, sharing your journey.
With that being said, let’s erase any dividing line between bloggers who earn money from blogging and those of us who don’t. Having taken that away, we’re all just people on an ‘equal playing field’ so to speak, and it’s from here I’d like to explore some of the psychological benefits of blogging, irrespective of whether or not there is monetary gain.
Technology: Great Servant, but a Bad Master:
Author of ‘The Happiness Project’, Gretchen Rubin says that technology is a great servant but a bad master. I think this is a wonderful concept to ponder.
Often the discourse around technology nowadays includes the concerns that many people have about how the use and misuse or overuse of technology is negatively impacting relationships and individuals’ mental health. For example, children and young people are said to be so engaged in online words that they lack the ability to forge deep and meaningful relationships and friendships. We risk becoming less attentive to the people we are sharing our lives with because of an growing obsession to share pictures of our perhaps half-lived experiences online. We crave the instant gratification of ‘likes’ rather than quietly spending time to develop the deeper aspects of our characters that we ourselves can honestly like. We fall into the comparison trap whenever we see the amazing experiences of other people’s (perhaps filtered) lives and we feel a sense of frustration, overwhelm, dissatisfaction and psychological and emotional burnout that comes from information overload, negative input and lack of space and time (or failure to carve that out for ourselves) to process what we are taking in.
HOWEVER, these negative effects are not always the case. As Rubin says, bad master, good servant. So what of blogging? Why am I exploring the benefits of blogging when perhaps a lot of the discourse about our use of technology is tinged with negativity?
Can Blogging be Good for You?
I would say a resounding ‘YES’. I don’t say that it always is good, but that it definitely can be.
1. Everyone has a story to tell:
In all the rush and hurry of life, sometimes (or oftentimes) we can feel that our voices are being drowned out. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has the need to feel and be validated. However, we are not always given the time or space to tell our stories, to be listened to or heard. Yet, here as bloggers we have this little space carved out where we can do exactly that, and whether one person or a million people read our stories, we have a platform to share, to express ourselves, and the gift of being listened to.
Furthermore, we are able to give the same gift to others, when we take the time to listen to their stories, to hear what they have to say, to appreciate who they are as well as their work. The validation may not come in the way people expect on the more ‘instant’ platforms where for example we post a photograph and wait to see how many ‘likes’ we get. Sure, someone may ‘like’ a blog post, but they may not, and yet that doesn’t take away from the possibility that people are reading and appreciating what we and others do, whether or not they express that. The platform in itself is a gift in being able to tell our stories, with the possibility of being heard, because everyone in life has something worthwhile to share.
2. The luxury of time.
One of the psychological benefits of blogging that I find is that it is a slow and steady process. When I sit down to write my blog, I am not posting anything to be sent out instantaneously (not that there is anything wrong with that). I presume we are all quite similar in that respect, as bloggers. Even if your post is a picture and a snippet of commentary, you are still putting more time and thought into it than simply sharing or forwarding something that someone else has said.
When I write, I need to pause to think, to allow myself to explore what it is that is simmering under the surface of my conscious thought and to form those ideas into words, sentences, images. It means that as we do so, we put more of ourselves into what we are doing, and I believe that honest self expression and the time that we give ourselves to do that has real psychological benefits just as much as journaling might have for some people. The tangle of unexpressed thoughts within us can find expression, form and sense as we take the time to share them.
In a world where so much is driven by materialism, consumerism, trends, fashions, fads and influences, we can sometimes risk being ‘swamped’ or drowned out by other people’s opinions, ideas and ways of life. I find that blogging takes me away from that to a more settled, quieter, calmer space where I can be authentic, whether or not anyone else will see that. Having that space to express our authentic selves is a wonderful outlet with psychological and emotional benefits in a world that so often wants to press us into its mould.
4. You are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people…
Sometimes we can feel quite alone in this world. Even with people around us we might feel like a ‘misfit’ in terms of our age, stage of life, or experience. However, there are billions of people on this planet, and many who are fortunate and privileged enough to have access to technology. This opens up to us new vistas of opportunity and possibility – we realise that the world is far more interesting and diverse that what we have experienced first hand, and we are granted the exciting access of a glimpse into people’s lives from all across the world. We are also reminded that however diverse our experiences may be, there is something fundamentally familiar about the minds and lives of other people – something so distinct about being human that we all share. And even if the people in your daily life that you meet and talk with face to face don’t share what you are going through, there is bound to be someone out there in the blogging world who does, and who could even offer you hope that you can, for example, get through a difficult situation when you see that they have been through similar, or encouragement and inspiration for your pursuits and opportunities for learning and growth in areas of expertise. Blogging also provides us with the opportunity to help and encourage other people with what we ourselves have learned in life. It brings together people of different ages, nationalities and interests. You are not alone, we are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people, and blogging opens up the opportunity to learn so much more about that which surely is a good thing for the mind and the imagination.
5. All the Little Things…
Sometimes I find that blogging helps me to stay ‘on track’ with certain aspects of my life. Even if I go through a spell of being busy or not blogging regularly, I can still come back to it and record whatever I’m thinking, talk about any aspect of my life, discuss projects I’m working on, and even the little day to day things that we need to keep motivated on such as home keeping, having a good attitude at work, maintaining routines, health and nutrition and all of the other ‘little things’ that make up the fabric of life, as well as those more interesting experiences such as travel for example.
It’s nice to know that these little things are shared by other people, and blogging can benefit us psychologically as we use it as a space to remember that the little things matter, they’re not insignificant, and it can be fun and helpful emotionally and mentally to be able to look back on our year, our lives and journeys through our blog posts to see how we have grown, changed and how our ideas and interests have developed.
So what about you? What are the benefits you find of blogging? And how has blogging helped you to develop and grow as a person? Something to think about and thank you for your wonderful posts and insights into life as you see it 🙂 x
Travelling teaches youthat ‘selfies’ aren’t always best 😉 That is to say, travelling teaches you to look out for others, and to discerningly allow others to look out for you.
It might be a little ‘tongue in cheek’ to use the example of breaking away from the ‘selfie’ approach, and asking a kindly stranger or fellow traveller to take a photograph of you, and maybe even to return the favour for them, which will create an end result of a wider panorama and view of your surroundings, and a fuller picture of yourself as an individual. Of course, I am referring to more than just the potential picture that you may come away with, but to the experiences of life themselves. However, I have found on my travels that offering to help others, or accepting help (and obviously being wise and safe in who you approach or allow…