Want to change something in your life? Consider trying out graphology

Suppose you could lose weight with only five minutes of effort each day. There would be no calories to count, no StairMasters to climb, and no pills to swallow.

All you would need is a pen and a sheet of paper.

More than 25 years ago, Joan Belzer heard a graphologist on television say, "You can lose weight by doing handwriting exercises." She attended his lecture and then practiced the handwriting exercises for five minutes a day for 21 days. By changing how she wrote, Belzer said she eventually lost 15 pounds. She went on to become a certified graphologist and worked at Canyon Ranch.

When I met Belzer recently at an eastside library, she asked me to write down several sentences on a blank sheet of paper. Looking at my handwriting, she "read" my personality traits. More specifically, she said that I think, 'What if?' a lot, and that I'm great at making plans—but have difficulty fulfilling them.

These are both true. And, no, Belzer doesn't have a crystal ball.

"How you write is delivered by the subconscious, which is about 75 to 80 percent of behavior," Belzer explained. "If you want to help yourself positively, you can change how you write, and give your brain positive messages. Nothing changes consciously until the subconscious accepts it."

So what does this have to do with weight loss? "Most people are overweight because something is eating them," Belzer said. "The writing exercises showed me how to have pride in myself and have control over what I eat. I didn't eat as much, and I didn't feel denied."

In her book The Five Minute Therapist: Rewrite Your Life in Five Minutes a Day, Belzer goes into detail about the letter d and how it relates to control and reaction to criticism. Do you write loopy lower-case cursive d's? Write the d without the loop, and a message will be sent to the subconscious: "I can control what I eat and still feel satisfied." This, of course, gets stronger with repetition and incorporating the new strokes in your handwriting.

While how you write your letters is telling, so is where you write on the page. "The whole world is a page. How you write on it is how you see yourself in this world," Belzer said.

Whether one writes close to the top of the page, to the edge of the paper, or mostly in the middle can tell a graphologist about a person's boundaries, whether that person feels isolated, and that person's level of respect for women. Where you start writing on a page can also indicate whether or not you have resolved something from the past. Belzer can even pinpoint when this unresolved issue took place.

Using a "magic margin ruler" that she developed, Belzer sets proper margins on a page to start: 1 inch from the left and right sides of the paper, and 1 1/2 inches down from the top. The left margin represents your current age. Let's say you are 50. If you start writing exactly between the left edge of the paper and the start of the left margin, something happened to you at age 25 that you haven't resolved.

Belzer told me several stories about how well this worked with clients. With an 18-year-old client, Belzer concluded something happened at the age of 16. Her client replied, "Oh, that's the year I took out the family car and crashed it." With another client, Belzer focused on the age of 4. It turned out the client's parents divorced when she was 4.

While losing weight is one issue discussed in the book, there are also handwriting exercises to help with other issues. Belzer calls this graphotherapy. Want to get better organized, or make peace with your parents, or release a traumatic event? Simply change how you write.

Belzer has also had success helping students in the classroom. A teacher at Townsend Middle School in Tucson taught her students to use the magic margins and other techniques. She penned Belzer a letter which appears in the book. She wrote, "What I learned was that this simple method quietly and effectively impacted all of the students for the good of the class."

While some feel graphology and handwriting exercises are nonsense, the true-life examples in Belzer's book could raise some eyebrows. And for those who are curious, these stories may help raise eyebrows and pens.

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