Old fashioned typewriter with blank sheet of paper and someone's hands ready to start typing

What’s new?

The arrival of sunshine and blue sky today along with news of lockdown restrictions in our corner of Yorkshire has taken me back to those early days of lockdown when the sun shone, and we didn’t go anywhere. I am mostly a home bird and don’t need much of an excuse to stay at home and drink tea but after several months of lockdown, I have really felt the benefit of spending time – at a distance – with friends and family.

How can I make sense of this situation?

So, if you’re feeling a little discombobulated at the moment, whether that’s down to Covid 19 or other work or life situations, I have a simple and effective writing exercise that will help. It’s a great for those times when you have thoughts, ideas and problems running in a never ending loop round your head. I’ll try to keep it simple, so grab a pen and notebook or your laptop and let’s get started. Firstly, write these headings.

  • What?
  • So what?
  • Now what?

Now let’s start writing!

1. What?

Start by describing the situation or experience that’s on your mind. Don’t worry about the spelling or grammar, just let the words flow. You might find that your thoughts jump around, that’s ok – just go with it. But if you are struggling to get going, try asking yourself these questions:

• What is the problem / difficulty / reason for feeling stuck / for feeling unhappy?

Paper and pen or laptop, it doesn’t matter. Just release those words until you’ve written down everything that’s on your mind.

2. So what?

Now look at what you’ve written and start to analyse it. This is where you try to break down the situation so that you can make sense of it in order to understand it better.

• What does this teach me about me / other people / our relationship / my attitudes?
• What could I have done differently / What is my new understanding of the situation?

This is the point where you might experience a few lightbulb moments as you see situations from a fresh perspective.

3. Now what?

This part focuses on planning and action, putting what you’ve learned into action.

• What can you do to make things better / resolve the situation / feel better?

What is reflective practice?

Reflective practice is an important part of medical and healthcare practice and put simply, is based on the idea of ‘thinking with purpose’. It’s how we learn through our experiences.  I first learned about it when I trained as a postnatal facilitator with the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) and have found this particular writing exercise incredibly effective over the years. Based on Borton’s framework for reflective practice it was adapted to suit NCT teaching practice.

A simple writing technique that works

It’s the simplicity of this particular reflective writing exercise that I love. The headings are easy to remember and give me a structure to follow that isn’t overly prescriptive. The headings are more of a prompt to guide me and help reframe my thoughts. And without fail it has stopped those thoughts running in a loop through my head. And it can be used for any situation – work, home, relationships, I think that’s its beauty.

There is a huge amount of research behind reflective practice and writing. This blog and writing exercise is very much my simplified approach. And it’s an approach that has helped me hugely over the years and I wanted to share it with you.

I’d love you to have a go and let me know how you get on.