EVENTS Well-being, well worth it. Part 1

In response to the challenging year we have all faced and the impact of the pandemic on our mental health, the SCBWI_BI events team arranged Well-Being: Why You Are Worth It, a series of webinars delivered by Andrew Wright of Action Your Potential. Anna Rymer reports.

I have to admit I spotted this SCBWI_BI opportunity (at the subsidised price of £2) and booked it on the spot, but it wasn’t until I was asked to write this article, that I made space in my schedule to actually attend it. Sound familiar? Yes, a prime example of how we push our most basic needs aside to prioritise work and progress, which ultimately leaves us frazzled. 


Luckily for me (and you too if you haven’t booked your spot yet) the sessions are recorded, so I was able to catch up on the first two sessions, and how glad I am that I did. 


Andrew Wright is on a mission to help people understand their amazing brains so they can become Neuro-Ninjas and get the best out of every day. He advocates that really understanding how our brain works enables us to live skilfully within it. 


The first session focused on viewing well-being as a skill. I was really fascinated by Andrew’s insights into neuroscience. Did you know the human brain is negatively biased, meaning it finds negative information three times more interesting than positive? I think we can all recognise the truth in that one. It’s a very useful quality when you’re at risk of being eaten by a bear, but not so much while scrolling through your Twitter feed.  


However, understanding the biases in our brain is how we can begin to tame it. There was so much hope running through the science, which essentially tells us we are not stuck as one thing. In fact, 50 per cent of how we feel today is determined by the previous 24 hours. This was my favourite take-away from the session – the truth that in any given moment, I have the power to put myself in a better place by this time tomorrow, and it can be achieved through very simple means. 


This is where the 12 Rocks of Well-Being comes into play. Andrew guided us through the daily habits and activities that give our brains the greatest chance of creating the best version of ourselves (the version that reaches that magical moment of writing ‘The End’). These rocks have come from neuroscience, psychology, and health studies and have made a massive impact on both Andrew’s life and the many people he has worked with since. It’s stuff that we already know is important – exercise is good for us, a healthy diet will make us feel better, quality sleep is essential – yet we don’t always do that stuff, do we? 


This session offers clarity on the habits and activities that really matter to our well-being and that, if built into each day, will significantly improve the quality of our lives. But it also goes a little further and begins to unpick how we actually commit to making this a reality. This section of the workshop was really practical and exciting in its possibility – looking at a set of habits as a net, and the behaviours that build these habits as the threads. Over time we can strengthen our nets (habits) with ever new threads (behaviours) and through small simple steps, can build a more resilient brain. 


I left the first session feeling truly inspired and ready to start my journey to become a Neuro-Ninja, although also grateful there were still three more sessions to help me along the way.


Session two delved a little more into neuroscience and the importance of properly understanding our brains, something that Andrew argues should be taught in all schools (and which Action Your Potential is actively doing in many). This session was all about why we worry and what we can do about it. It focused on three areas:

1. The ‘Moany, Groany, Dronie’ nature of our brains and how this is the brain’s natural response to change and also a key part of the problem-solving process.

2. The two halves of the nervous system – the reactive/sympathetic nervous system and the responsive/para-sympathetic one – and how the balance of these is crucial for our well-being (the 12 rocks can help with this).

3. Some practices and advice (including pleasing acronyms) on how we can manage our worrying.

In other words, Andrew covers loads and really inspires once again. Did you know that on average adults worry for 100 minutes a day and children worry for 240 minutes a day? That’s covering every possible incident where the brain doesn’t have an immediate solution to a problem, which is essentially what a worry is. So, you are not alone – we’re all at it – every brain worries. It’s also interesting to note the higher frequency in children, especially since most of us are writing child characters, and also hoping to help ease the worries of our young readers. It makes sense that children worry more given that they have fewer references from which to call up solutions, and stories can, of course, help with these solutions. Interesting stuff!


There is lots of advice on how to manage our worries by understanding our responses and reactions (in relation to our nervous system and the biases of our brain). Hopefully, this may lead to a new habit (or net as discussed in session one) – ‘Building a Response Mode’. This explores ways to better equip ourselves to deal with situations, problems and changes where we don’t immediately have a solution or known outcome and where we are likely to worry. One of the threads (behaviours) within this net is to ‘Build your creativity net’, which will be covered in further detail in session three (yay).

I came out of session two with yet more clarity on how I can live on purpose within my brain, building new habits to increase my resilience and improve each day. There’s a lot to take in and yet more things to try out, but this isn’t a quick fix: it’s a process that absolutely makes sense and I really look forward to the results. When the winds of change blow, I’d like to be one of those building windmills, wouldn’t you? (While also writing with confidence and joy, of course.)

If you’d like access to the recordings you can still book the event here.

*All pictures in article courtesy of Andrew Wright.

Anna Rymer is a Writer, Editor, Assistant Agent and Mother living on the Wirral in Merseyside. Her writing has appeared in The Cabinet of Heed, the Same Journal and the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. She also publishes flash fiction and fiction reviews on her blog Blissfully Buried in Books. Anna is currently working on her debut middle-grade fantasy novel, whilst juggling various jobs, her children and a massive to-be-read list. Twitter @annarymerwriter 


Fran Price is Events Editor for Words & Pictures. 

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