6 Writing Techniques and Exercises Science Has Proven to Be Therapy
Easing your mind can be as simple as picking up a pencil
You most likely had a diary when you were younger. It was the ideal place to keep all your secrets and record your most special thoughts and memories.
You likely did this as a form of release because there were some things you just couldn’t tell people. You probably never realized that your padlocked diary was more than a book with lined paper—it was a cost-effective “therapy session.”
Whether you called it a diary and hid it under your bed, or a journal that you scribbled in when times got tough, the outcome was the same. It turns out that writing your thoughts and feelings down is therapeutic.
Writing is therapy that can be done in the comfort of your own room, dressed in your pajamas. Science has shown that there are proven benefits for your mental health when you write things down.
How Writing Can Be Healthy
Writing a journal or diary is not just for angst-ridden teenagers. As an adult, you can benefit from writing thoughts down and ease your mind (and digestion) as much as with yoga. No need to call and schedule a session that is over a month away.
Having a bad day at work? Simply find a quiet place and jot down what happened and how you felt. Having trouble sleeping at 4 in the morning? Sit up, grab a pad and pen, and write down the continuous thoughts running through your mind.
The act of writing thoughts or feelings down is beneficial to everyone because we all have problems. By writing them down, the problems become concrete rather than abstract, and you are better able to understand them.
You, in turn, are also better able to understand where your feelings came from and what is happening around you. Your improved self-awareness and self-understanding is critical to your mental well-being and personal growth.
There are several ways you can use writing to help you understand problems, and ultimately deal with them. Consider any of the six options below and find what works for you.
1. Stream-of-Consciousness Writing
This is a very straightforward technique since it’s just your train of thought. All you have to do is grab a pen and paper and write down whatever you are thinking.
It can be images you see, events, sounds, and even smells. Whatever crosses your mind ends up on paper. The best part is that what you write doesn’t have to make sense.
When you look at it later, you will likely be able to find perspective in what you were thinking. There is something to be said for looking back and being able to reflect on your feelings.
At the time you are experiencing them, they may not make sense, but you can find meaning in them after the fact. There is an almost immediate relief and cathartic effect that comes from writing what is on your mind.
2. Reflective Journaling
This is where you keep track of your positive and negative experiences as well as the thoughts you had at the time. You can also write down what you learned from each experience.
The best time to do this is right after the event occurred when you still have the feelings fresh in your mind. It helps to keep a journal with you. The therapy comes from looking back over the experience, as you will gain new insight.
You can see how far you have come since the event as you embrace critical thinking and self-reflection. Understanding that you have moved forward from an experience creates a positive feeling and a sense of empowerment, which will only keep pushing you forward.
3. Gratitude Journaling
Writing down the things you are thankful for is relaxing and promotes positive thinking. Science has shown that this type of journaling increases brain activity in the areas associated with moral cognition and value judgment.
With so much negativity in the world that you cannot control, it helps to focus on the good in your life. By expressing what you are grateful for, you can also increase overall relaxation, improve sleep patterns, and reduce depression.
4. Expressive Writing
This form of writing is particularly helpful when dealing with negative feelings and traumatic events. Traumatic events and truly negative moments in your life can take a while to get over, so allow yourself time to process the emotions before writing them down.
When you feel ready, write about how the event affected you, what changes it caused in your life, and how it made you feel. Write about what bothers you, so that it gets off your mind and no longer clouds your thinking. Expressive writing has been linked to several physical health benefits, too:
♦ Reduced blood pressure
♦ Lower incidence of digestive troubles
♦ Improved mobility and reduced pain, specifically in patients with arthritis
♦ Improved lung function for individuals with asthma
♦ Reduced depression symptoms
♦ Improved immune system functioning and the production of more antibodies
5. Letter Writing
If you are struggling with unfinished business between you and a family member or friend, write a letter. If you were never able to fully express yourself, writing it in a letter allows you to feel as if you have.
You don’t even have to send the letter. The act of getting it out is all you need to do to release any burden you have been carrying.
Writing a poem involves crafting your experiences into an expression of your feelings. Poetry is a great way to express emotions and help patients to find meaning in negative events. Many health professionals have successfully used this technique for patients to process and deal with serious illnesses and the loss of life.
The Naturalogical Conclusion
It really is that simple. Pick a technique that fits, grab a pen, and start writing.
Writing is therapeutic and allows you to release your feelings instead of bottling things up, which will only cause an explosion. Of course, while writing is a great therapy for everyday problems, nothing can substitute for the guidance of a trained professional.
If you worry you may be depressed or feeling some other form of mental issue, please consult a doctor. Emergency help can also be found at MentalHealth.gov