Did you know that here at Designs in Mind, we hold other weekly groups, separate from our creative, artistic, and studio sessions?
Currently, we have a weekly Reading Group on Mondays from 1 pm to 2 pm. This is followed by our Singing Group: 2.15 pm to 3.15 pm. Our members can attend the whole two sessions back to back with a 15-minute cuppa break or just come along and stay for a short while. The good thing is, you can just come along to listen as there is no pressure to participate.
If you like reading and poetry you are in for a real treat in this week’s blog! So many lovely comments about how these extra groups help us all with our mental health challenges.
The singing group has been going for over three years. It was first hosted in Cae Glas Park because it was around the end of lockdown. The reading group is relatively new and started earlier this year.
These weekly Reading and Singing groups are hosted by Stuart, our Listen & Connect Facilitator. These groups have increased in numbers over the time they’ve been running. The space is a much-welcomed additional part of what we offer our members of Designs in Mind.
The singing group mainly invites those who are attending to pick a favourite song. We then all sing together, kind of like a collaborative karaoke session, with the words on a shared screen. This makes for an education on many genres; we never know what kind of stuff people may request. It’s certainly expanded my musical tastes.
Stuart our Facilitator brings along his guitar and sometimes we sing along as he strums the tune. He is a great guitar player.
Recently on a hotter day, we met in Cae Glas Park and found a shady spot and our jam session was most liberating! Stuart provided the music via his guitar, handed out sheets with the lyrics on and we all had a jolly good time.
We had few of the public stroll by that day looking inquisitive, one gentleman also stopped for a minute to listen, dance and join in, before strolling of with a big smile on his face and a definite bounce in his step!
We’ve had a few low-key gigs, such as our Members Meetings, singing well-rehearsed favourites to the other members, who often end up joining in! We also sang at our shop opening event at the end of last year. It’s also been suggested we could sing for some residents in care, perhaps those with Dementia or Parkinson’s. This would be good for our confidence and would help the residents too!
Listening to or engaging in music – for example, by singing, dancing or playing instruments – can help people with Dementia develop and maintain relationships with others and improve their wellbeing. It can help them to express their feelings and ideas – verbally and non-verbally – act as a prompt for reminiscing.
A huge benefit as music therapy for Parkinson’s disease have been well established over the years. Rhythm and rhythmic cueing can help with initiation, coordination, and maintenance of movement. Benefits can extend to cognitive functions, communications abilities, and mood. There’s an increasing amount of evidence that singing releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine – the ‘happy’ chemicals that boost your mood and make you feel good about yourself.
Our Singing Group has definitely made a difference to my own mental health. It has increased my confidence, my singing abilities and I feel a natural high so it’s definitely a boost to my general wellbeing. It also gets me out of the house and seeing other folk, which is very important to me.
One of our members who attends singing group said: “I join in with singing, I love it all“
“Our Reading and Singing groups provide a number of benefits for us all. The books and songs we share have personal significance and can start conversations that help us feel more connected to one another. The physical act of singing or reading aloud takes concentration and focus, being mindful when reading, or singing, helps us to briefly move away from thoughts of the past, or future and truly appreciate the present moment. Being part of a group and undertaking these activities together, brings us closer, we show one another respect and care when we listen. Both reading and singing are fun and intentionally, or unintentionally, laughter is a result of the shared activity.”
If you have access to the BBC app there is a blog Stuart recommends. It’s specifically about the benefits of reading for mental health. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00187ws
For me I find overall it’s a great experience, a physical experience as well as a community experience.
In the reading group we have members bringing along books and their own pieces, such as poetry. The wide range of topics read about, from books about cats, to children’s books about birds and mental health challenges, to spiritual books and biographies.
“There is something called bibliotherapy and it has a profound effect on people suffering with depression. Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Institute examined a two weekly reading group program for people diagnosed with depression over a 12-month period and reported a significant improvement to mental health. Participants reported improved concentration, better emotional understanding, increased self-awareness, and the ability to discuss meaningful issues related to self and being.” – Excerpt from MHFA England, Why reading can be good for mental health, full article via this link https://bit.ly/3XA0EXp
The ancient art of reading aloud has a number of benefits for adults, from helping improve our memories and understand complex texts, to strengthening emotional bonds between people. Far from being a rare or bygone activity, it is still surprisingly common in modern life. Excerpt from BBC.com Why you should read this article out loud, full article via this link https://bbc.in/3NOqsf3
A few of our members were keen to share how much the Reading Group means to them: “I go along to listen rather than read out loud. I love listening to the different books people bring along, it make me so happy.” – Pat
Another member shared: “I enjoy getting to know different types books and listening to them. I also enjoy reading my books, they are often cat themed. In general I feel happy listening, I like that we get to know other each better through the varied choice of books different people bring along. It’s nice to hear other people perception of the book we’ve chosen to read from, as we all share how we’ve been touched by them reading.” – Nicky
I asked if there is a positive impact for those attending the groups, whether they feel it’s helping with general wellbeing and mental health challenges.
“Yes very much so, it’s another day to get me out of my flat, I find it’s very relaxing setting.” – Pat
Another member wrote: “I like the reading group because it is a focused time for me to actually read, which was something I’ve always enjoyed, however my anxiety doesn’t keep me focused enough at home. I like the people in the group and feel comfortable with them. I get the opportunity to talk with a group about what has piqued their interest regarding certain books they like and usually the story behind it. I like the relaxed setting and I feel it helps me with my patience, sometimes gives me a different perspective and I always find there is something to smile about and something to make me explore differences. It’s a beautifully safe space to do it.”
The same member also shared about singing:
“The singing group is fun. I feel I can sing without judgement and it’s a way to start expressing myself.”
Long standing member, Jenny B sent me the lovely following words on what the group has done for her wellbeing and mental health challenges:
“I’m not good at concentration in either reading or listening to passages read, so I thought this group might help improve these skills. I originally attended not intending to contribute, but just listen. However, it’s so diverse in the books that are being shared, I now participate in reading aloud. That’s great for me as I realised I actually like reading aloud.
From this self-realisation I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app and found some free books, so I started to share a few chapters of those. Keen to check they were interesting enough to use at book group, I pre read them and got so interested I finished a whole book!
I am so proud of myself. Since then I have also read quite a thick book, even all throughout one night, when I couldn’t sleep!
I’ve discovered I like romantic comedy books too, a genre I wouldn’t have expected, as I know I like factual and wellbeing books in the main. I now look forward to reading group and also find the reflective thoughts after very interesting.”
“I’ve been attending singing from the start and it’s a lot of fun., from group karaoke, to a jam with Stuart on guitar. We’ve performed publicly a few times now, in low key events and we’ve met in the park informally on sunnier days. It really helps me express my soul. From identifying with lyrics, to memories connected with songs, to initially feeling I can barely speak from overwhelm, to now belting out a power ballad! I get all tingly. Sometimes it’s an effort to get out of the house but the reward to wellbeing is wonderful.” – Jenny B
Another member enthused: “I love everything about it. I’m a huge book lover, so hearing different genres and authors being read is great. I find it relaxing and I look forward every week to hearing Annie read poetry from the many books by different poets she has, some of the often local. I like hearing poems that people have written. I can’t sing, but I like staying to hear everyone else sing and always end up adding songs to my playlist. Monday is my favourite day of the week.
I’ve gained confidence sharing my own poems and also have gotten better reading in front of others. As much as I love books I’ve never been good at reading aloud. It also gives me an excuse to get more books! Even though I’m on a book buying ban!
It makes me feel calm and happy. It gives me something to look forward to. I look forward to seeing everyone and having a catch-up and cup of tea. It’s such a relaxed atmosphere.” – Jasmin
As well as bringing along books to read Jasmin also reads aloud some of her brilliant poetry. I asked her to share one for this blog.
Poem written April 2022
The sadness seeped into my dreams
And bled into tomorrow.
I see your smiles and dance with you beneath the starlight
Living the life that we should have had
The moon gazes upon our ghostly kisses.
He smiles a sad smile
Knowing that when the sun rises
She will steal you away
Written by Jasmin – Designs in Mind Member
Nicki’s Poem – Doggie Daycare
I’ve just seen a dog in a child’s car seat.
I wonder where it’s going?
Is it off to doggie daycare
Innocently not knowing,
That it’s owner is gonna bugger off for the day
While he makes Plasticine worms,
And sits on the scratchy carpet as his fire knickers burns.
And all day, as the nursery door bangs,
He’ll look up forlornly in anticipation,
Is this my doggie daddy come to offer me emancipation?
Escape from the smell of fish glue and a pocket full of posies?
Then off home in his padded car seat he’ll go
And pee on his owners roses.
Written by Nicki Designs in Mind Member
I also read out some of poetry that I publish on Medium.com. Here is a link to my poem inspired by other reading group members, who wrote poems to their pet
An Ode to my Canine Companion by Willow: https://link.medium.com/ekAesbCtYAb
Blog written by Willow – Member and Social Media Coordinator