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Reading Friends

"It's been an absolute lifeline"

Written by Bristol Libraries

Bristol Libraries have been running a range of different online Reading Friends groups since February 2021. One of their innovative Reading Friends groups is Journalling for Wellbeing. Open to all adults, these fortnightly sessions provide time and space for participants to share, reflect and connect with others.

A moment to reflect

The Journalling for Wellbeing sessions open with a short free writing exercise. Reading Befrienders leading the session then use prompts from reading materials and pictures to encourage people to write about whatever is on their mind. Participants are invited to share any journalling tips and hints, as well as bring their own prompts to share with the group.

Sharing experiences

One of the participants in this group is in her 40s and had recently been diagnosed with a serious medical condition that prevents her from working or leaving the house unassisted. The changes to her life as a result of this diagnosis coincided with the pandemic, and meant she had to move home to be supported by her parents. She felt low on confidence having lost a lot of independence.

“It has lowered my confidence a lot... I have become a bit more isolated, more so than I was before.”

She’s able to participate in Reading Friends activities from home over Zoom and is passionate about how important a virtual group has been for enabling her to easily participate. This allows her to meet and connect with people with similar interests, which would have been difficult face-to-face.

“The fact that it’s free and we can all meet up, engage and share experiences— it’s been an absolute lifeline. Especially for people who are elderly or isolated, or people like myself who are disabled. We can’t get out and meet people easily. It’s been amazing.”

An important distraction

The activities within Reading Friends Journalling for Wellbeing sessions help participants to process their emotions. Journalling helps with headspace, and the creative activities – such as using pictures and reading materials as prompts for creative writing – acted as a distraction from the stresses of the pandemic. The group provides participants with a space in which to reflect, an opportunity to connect with others and acts an outlet for their feelings or worries.

“I find it really useful because, with what has been going on in the world for the last year and a bit – it gets everything that’s on your mind out of your head and on to paper… it’s a distraction technique.” 

She talked about the impact that the groups had at a time when she was otherwise living in limbo.

“There’s no medication I can take for my condition and I think I could be pretty low. All that’s keeping me going is my volunteering, and having these online groups with other people.”

Many participants are carers, or have other responsibilities. As well as giving participants something to look forward to, Reading Friends also provides a moment for them to focus on their own wellbeing. These sessions also provide important tools that participants can develop outside of sessions to help enhance their wellbeing.

Please contact library.ideas@bristol.gov.uk to find out more about Reading Friends in Bristol.

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