Writing as Therapy
Writing – it’s such a basic skill, one of the first things we learn as children. And it’s such a common act – we think nothing of making a list or scribbling a note. In our Information Age, it seems we’re all writers – emails, texts, reports etc. These are daily To-Dos for many of us. But for all its commonplace simplicity – writing is actually a profound process.
We are turning invisible, intangible, ideas and thoughts into a concrete form that exists in the world and not just in our heads.
It’s a creative act.
Writing can turns ideas into actions, it can make things happen, it can lead to the creation of something new.
But the effects of writing go beyond the words.
The act of writing, the creative process of putting thoughts into words, can have a positive and often deeply soothing effect on the writer.
Psychologists have studied the therapeutic effects of writing and learned that it can help to relieve the effects of trauma or help us handle difficult emotions.
Julia Cameron’s famous Morning Pages (3 pages of daily freewriting) are a beloved tool of writers and non-writers all over the world, helping thousands find happier levels of mental peace and inner calm.
Regular writing or journaling can help us to process our thoughts and emotions and find ways to cope with life’s challenges.
And this practice can be more than a remedy to life’s woes – it can serve as a more pro-active boost to our wellbeing and sense of self.
In the book Write Yourself Happy, Positively Psychology academic Megan C Hayes explores how Positive Journalling can help to cultivate life-enhancing skills, emotions and inner resources.
She writes, “In addition to alleviating our bad feelings, this way of writing could help us cultivate our great feelings, harnessing these emotions in order to power us along our individual journeys toward self-growth.”
These benefits are available to all of us, at all levels of writing skill or ability.
And as a form of therapy, can you think of a more affordable one?!
So even if you wouldn’t call yourself a writer, there are many valuable benefits to adopting some form of writing or journaling. And to inspire you to have a go, here are 12 ways that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) can be therapeutic for you.
12 Benefits of Writing Therapy
If thoughts, ideas or feelings are bubbling up within you, it can be beneficial to express them – rather than suppressing or repressing them. Writing is a simple way to express your inner world and the creative energies inside you.
It’s often easier to make sense of our thoughts when we try to get them into some kind of order. Putting thoughts into words helps us to crystallise them, so they make sense and we can see more clearly what we’re dealing with.
My fellow list-lovers will be familiar with this one. Simply making a list or mind map or ‘brain-dump’ of all the ideas that circle our minds can be very soothing.
It seems once we’ve written it down, our brains don’t feel the need to remind us about it over and over and over. This helps us feel relief and increased mental calm.
Writing is a creative act and creativity can be highly energising. If you are feeling low or lethargic, writing can be a way to kick-start a new energy or refresh flagging spirits.
Freewriting or ‘stream of consciousness’ writing can lead to some interesting and surprising new ideas. If you just begin to write and keep going – without censoring your words – you’ll find yourself writing things you didn’t even know you thought! These gems of inspiration can improve your life in wonderful ways – and it’s exciting to discover a new access to the realm of ideas.
Exploring a tricky subject or problem on the page can often help you write your way to a solution that you couldn’t even imagine before you began to write.
Writing turns your thoughts into form. Writing your ideas down can be one of the first steps of turning them into reality. And when you know you can shape your life and your world, these empowering feelings help build self-esteem and confidence.
If you direct your writing towards positive emotions, or you write about past events that brought you joy – you get to experience those pleasures all over again.
Writing – in particular, expressive journalling – has been shown to help with psychological issues. The simple act of writing can offer a route to recovery and improved mental health.
If you use a regular writing practice to vent any frustration or air any grievances, you’ll feel less need to express those emotions toward the relevant person. (Or your loved ones.) It can also help you to reflect more calmly on the issue and maybe even find a new perspective that brings you peace.
If you love words, then simply writing anything, or just playing with words, can be a source of joy and pleasure. If you have any literary inclinations, however slight, time spent writing can be very soothing to your creative heart.
The more you write, the better you get at writing. It’s a form of practice and when you practice often, you naturally improve. Writing regularly will help you become more articulate and aware of good communication skills, which can be a satisfying boost to your self-image.
These are just a few of the ways writing can be a simple but powerful tool for finding more calm and comfort in your life. And the more often you can find a little time to explore your thoughts on paper, the more you’ll tap into these benefits – and the more they’ll support you, long after you’ve packed away your notebook or device.
So, if you’d like to be more creative, confident, kind and happy – where can you introduce a little writing therapy into your life?
Grab a notebook and begin writing down your thoughts…
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