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    The writer and content marketer on writing as a form of therapy and the joy to be found in guinea pigs

    As we seek to rebuild and revive our vibrant City of London community spirit, this autumn The Royal Exchange has partnered with the charity Mind in the City to explore mental health and the important role relationships, conversation, connection and community play in wellbeing. Here, we talk to Theresa Harold, a freelance writer based in Tower Hamlets, about how she maintains a positive and productive state of mind.

    What activities, habits or rituals have you found to be the most conducive to maintaining good mental health through challenging times?

    I’ve always found writing to be my way of figuring stuff out. So when I was put on furlough, I decided to treat it as a writer’s retreat and finally start work on my first book. I got into a routine of hitting a thousand words a day. Watching the word count creep up gave me such a sense of accomplishment – I’m over halfway through my manuscript now.

    Are there any resources that you use, and would recommend, to help maintain a positive state of mind?

    The Holistic Psychologist has a brilliant – and free! – Future Self Journal that you can download. I’ve found it a helpful way to check-in with myself on a daily basis and chronicle my progress too.

    How important is a sense of community to you and what is yours?

    Before lockdown, I don’t think I properly valued having a sense of community. But self-isolation really brought home how important it is. When we couldn’t leave the house, our local pub landlord (Ben at The Nelson’s) would drop off supplies for me and my housemate – just the essentials like eggs, flour, and Negronis. It’s neighbourly touches like that that I’ve never had anywhere else in London.

    Is there anything you started doing during lockdown that has now become a permanent part of your life?

    I started cycling everywhere as a way to avoid public transport and I’ve loved rediscovering London that way. It makes me feel much more a part of the city when I can build up a mental map of my routes.

    What thought always puts you in a good mood? 

    Guinea pigs. I could be having the most bleurgh of days, but when I watch the funny little Stories on Pineypig’s Instagram, I always, always smile.

    Theresa Harold is a freelance writer. In her day job as a content marketer, she writes supporter emails for an environmental NGO. She lives on Columbia Road (famous for its flower market) in Tower Hamlets;

    The Royal Exchange’s local Mind network – Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest – offers a range of innovative and collaborative services to support people’s mental and physical wellbeing, resilience and recovery. Click here for further information about how to access this local service, make a donation or find out how you could help with campaigning, volunteering and fundraising 

    Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest is part of the national Mind network, which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing difficulties, visit to access information about a broad range of topics and services, designed to help you overcome the challenges of this difficult time 

    Visit The Royal Exchange this autumn to celebrate the vitality of community and rediscover the joy of sensory experiences within our welcoming boutiques and eateries. Read more about our Reconnect campaign here and let us know how you are reconnecting with the world on Instagram @theroyalexchange and Twitter @rexshopper