Writing Therapy: Write to heal and understand yourself better
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your thoughts and emotions, unsure how to process or make sense of them? At some point, we’ve probably all felt this way. So what do you do?
You might not want to discuss how you feel with anyone else, and spending time trying to think about what’s on your mind probably makes things worse.
Fortunately, many people have found that writing therapy is a great way to explore and process your thoughts, emotions, and experiences and you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
So today, I’ll share everything you need to know about writing therapy to help you start and develop the practice.
What is writing therapy?
Writing therapy is a simple and accessible way to practice self-reflection and can be a powerful tool for self-discovery and personal growth.
There are different types of writing therapy, that I’ll talk about shortly but the principle is the same; to write down your thoughts and feelings so you can see them more clearly and examine them objectively.
Just like when you practice mindfulness meditation; the aim is to avoid becoming hijacked by the same thoughts and feelings you are trying to deal with. Writing them down gives you the space and the mental pause to step back and look at them with a calmer, less confused mind.
How does writing therapy work?
If you’re a fan of the to-do list, this is pretty similar. The brain likes to multiply problems, and there have been studies to prove it.
You might have been in the situation when you wake up and say “I’ve got hundreds of things to do today!” But, if you spend a few moments to write down what you actually have to do, in most cases you find it’s not actually as much as you thought, maybe even some things that don’t need to be done today, or maybe even things that you don’t even need to do at all.
When we write things down, it gives us a chance to see and understand how we feel more clearer. It can also be a cathartic experience, allowing us to release pent-up emotions and gain a sense of control over them.
The benefits of writing therapy
The good news is that there’s a growing body of research that supports the use of writing therapy as an effective way to improve mental health and well-being.
In fact, one study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that expressive writing, a type of writing therapy in which individuals write about their deepest thoughts and feelings, can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Another study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology even found that expressive writing can improve immune function and reduce the risk of illness.
The benefits of writing therapy include:
- Enhanced self-awareness: Writing can help you gain insight into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can lead to increased self-awareness and self-understanding.
- Improved physical health: Writing therapy can have physical health benefits, such as improved immune function and reduced blood pressure.
- Improved emotional well-being: Writing about difficult experiences or emotions can help you process and make sense of them, which can lead to reduced stress and improved emotional well-being.
- Increased coping skills: By expressing and examining your feelings and experiences on paper, you can develop strategies for coping with stress and difficult emotions.
- Greater creativity: Writing can be a creative outlet that allows you to explore new ideas and express yourself in unique ways.
What are the different types of writing therapy?
Perhaps the most popular form of writing therapy is journaling. It involves keeping a daily or weekly record of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It can either be a blank page that you freely document in a flow of thoughts or there are now some templates available to guide you to examine how you are feeling in each entry.
Journaling can help you process and make sense of your emotions, and help you to track your progress and growth over time.
What used to be only reserved for teenage girls is now being used by everyone including company executives as it’s been shown to help with decision-making and also increase memory.
This type of writing therapy uses poetry as a way of self-expression and healing. It can involve writing your own poems or reading and interpreting the work of other poets.
Poetry therapy can be particularly helpful for people who find it difficult to express themselves through more traditional forms of writing.
There are no real rules to the type of poem you write, and even if you don’t have any experience in writing poetry, simply writing down your train of thought can help you find clarity and understanding.
One of the key tenants of mindfulness meditation is identifying the stories we tell others and ourselves about our lives.
Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on these stories. It’s based on the idea that the stories we tell shape our perceptions and behaviors, and that by examining and changing the stories we tell, we can make positive changes in our lives.
Narrative therapy can be helpful for a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and trauma. It can also be useful for people who feel stuck in negative patterns or who want to make positive changes in their lives.
It allows you to express your thoughts and feelings in a safe and controlled environment, and it can also serve as a way to document and reflect on your progress.
Letter writing therapy involves writing letters to yourself or to others, either real or fictional. These letters can be therapeutic because they allow you to express your thoughts and feelings in a safe and controlled way, and they can also help to process and resolve conflicts or challenges.
I’ve found this to be helpful especially why when I am trying to understand why I think someone is doing something to upset me.
I wrote a letter once about someone not having given the same effort to clean my apartment as I did. Even though the letter was directed at someone else, I discovered a lot about myself and the reasons why having a tidy apartment was so important to me. I also found myself finding good reasons why they weren’t tidying up to the same standards that I held. It actually helped me have a real-life conversation with that person, and I now had the right words to express why it was important, but I was also more understanding of their point of view.
Tips for practicing writing therapy on your own
As you can see, there are great benefits to using writing therapy. Here are some of the tips that I’ve found useful and that may help you get started.
Use a pen
Whether it’s an iPad stylus, a pricy fountain pen, or a pencil with a chewed end, writing by hand allows you to think creatively. It’s also slower to write by hand so it gives you time to think and write down the right words and really understand what’s going on in your mind.
The right place to write
It’s important to find a space that allows you to focus and feel relaxed. This could be a dedicated writing area in your home, a quiet park or café, or even a cozy corner of your bedroom.
Just make sure it’s somewhere you feel comfortable without anyone looking over your shoulder and someplace where you won’t be disturbed.
Set a time for writing therapy
Whether you choose to write daily, weekly, or monthly, schedule some time to write regularly. This can help you to write consistently and give you the practice you need to get better are exploring your thoughts.
Write like no one is ever going to read what you’ve written because unless you choose to share it, no one ever will.
Writing therapy is about self-exploration and growth, so it’s important to be honest and authentic when you write. Don’t worry about grammar or style – just focus on expressing your thoughts and feelings as honestly as possible.
Always know that there is help
Writing therapy is a powerful tool in self-exploration and healing, but it can sometimes bring up emotions and memories that are difficult to deal with on your own.
Writing should help clarify what is causing you any difficulties or pain, but you may not know how to deal with them. You don’t have to deal with issues on your own.
If you need additional support or guidance, consider seeking help from a trusted friend, family member, or therapist.
Writing exercises you can try to get started
Here’s a list of writing exercises that you can get started with, and different ones are better suited to how you are feeling.
This exercise is great to try if you just want to give it a go, and don’t have a specific topic you want to start with.
Start by setting a timer for a set amount of time (such as 15 or 20 minutes) and writing continuously without stopping.
You can write about anything that comes to your mind, and it’s okay if what you write doesn’t make sense.
Stream of consciousness writing
It might sound similar to free writing, but stream-of-consciousness writing differs in that you try to be more mindful of what you are thinking. You write down your thoughts as they come to you, without censoring or editing.
Again, you can set a timer for a set amount of time, and just write whatever comes to mind. This exercise can be helpful for getting in touch with your deeper thoughts and feelings.
Writing to prompts
If there’s something that you want to address more head-on, writing prompts are a great way to direct your writing to understand how you are feeling.
For example, a prompt might be “Write about a time when you felt particularly proud of yourself,” or “Write about why my partner not remembering what gift I wanted for my birthday made me so upset.”
Write a letter to someone
Like the example I gave earlier, another method you can use is to write a letter to anyone, including yourself.
It can be difficult to write honestly, so just remember that this is only going to be seen by you and that it’s a tool to better understand your thoughts and feelings.
It can be difficult to understand our thoughts and how we truly feel. By practicing writing therapy we can create the space to explore and understand the state of our minds.
Writing therapy is a great way to learn more about yourself in a safe environment and help you deal with life beyond the pages.
By using these tips you’ll hopefully find a way to improve your mental health and well-being.