This November we’re asking people to send us their favourite sayings, poems, writings and novels – ones which have given you support and inspiration along the way.

As part of National Novel Writing Month- NaNoWriMo – The Retreat is encouraging everyone to explore the timeless power of literature and creative self-expression to bring consolation and inspiration – and you don’t need to write a novel (unless you want to!). 

Please write in to reflections@theretreatyork.org.uk with your favourite ones or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram @TheRetreatYork

If you prefer to read rather than to write, The Novel Cure: an A-Z of Literary Remedies, by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, prescribes novels to fit physical and emotional ‘ailments’ from bad backs to broken dreams. Please Tweet us through November to share favourite books and poems that inspire and comfort you today!

The Retreat’ s Psychotherapist Laura Timms explains how words and literature can help us emotionally

November is here and so is NaNoWriMo! Every year, many thousands of people across the world set themselves the challenge of writing 50,000 words of a novel, in a fun and focused burst of international creativity. 

Whether or not participants complete the ambitious writing challenge, NaNoWriMo sets out to showcase the transformational potential of creativity and the power of people finding their voices. 

Writing as a healing force formed an important element of The Retreat York’s world-changing approach to humane psychological treatment. Founded in 1796 by Quaker visionaries devoted to providing care based on kindness and valuing the lives of patients, The Retreat’s model emphasised the importance of time spent in nature as part of a purposeful community and of the healing power of literature and creative expression. 

The Retreat’s model drew international attention and played a significant part in the slow shift to providing more humane and compassionate care for people in mental distress. Cutting edge psychological research today is still expanding our understanding of the profound mental health benefits of time spent in nature and of creative self-expression, none of which would surprise The Retreat’s visionary founders. 

Poems and other writings by The Retreat’s first patients are still preserved in The Retreat’s archive – available online, held by the University of York. Early patients took comfort in copying out poems which gave them solace, for example 25 year old Edward Fox, a druggist’s apprentice from Exeter who was admitted to The Retreat in 1845, who copied out Charles Dickens’ poem ‘The Ivy Green’ with its description of a “brave old plant in its lonely days” which “shall never fade, from its hale and hearty green”.