Writing therapy is an actual ‘thing’. It’s not just for us nerdy wordy souls yearning for an outlet for our unsatiated brilliance. It’s actually a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing, and then the processing of that writing, as a way to heal. The premise behind writing therapy is that by writing one’s feelings down, emotional trauma will gradually ease.
Whilst I’ve never formally undertaken ‘writing therapy’ as such, I certainly know that I get great satisfaction from scribbling down thoughts when I’m in a muddle about something. It helps to clear my head and offer the best answer when I see all the ideas in black and white in front of me. I also remember as a teenager how wonderfully satisfying it was to express my inner most desires and angst in my secret diary, and how I always felt a little closer to the ‘truth’ or ‘real me’ as a result. So I guess that was my own form of writing therapy; nurturing my emotional health through words.
I am also aware however, that when I write for hours on end, my physical body doesn’t actually feel so great. No matter how many ergonomic health and safety workplace seminars I’ve been to, and how many awesome chair and desk combos I’ve tried, I still get sore shoulders and a stiff neck after hours at the computer. So, perhaps whilst writing is great for my emotional health it isn’t so good for my physicality?
Maybe it’s down to the length of time you write in one sitting? Possibly it’s the kind of things you write? Perhaps it’s where and when you write? I’m interested to explore how long I can draw this bow that writing is actually good for your health.
How Writing Can Improve Your Health
You may be constantly writing businessy stuff, such as emails, reports, and social media posts, and it doesn’t feel like they’re doing diddly squat to improve your health, but did you know that certain methods of writing can actually help you become healthier?
Science has shown that writing down your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic, both mentally AND physically. Writing therapy fosters self-awareness and encourages reflection which is fundamental in dealing with negative emotions and experiences. It can also help you develop critical thinking skills and empathy. And there’s no denying it is wonderful for developing creativity. But does it matter what kind of writing we are doing, in order to gain these benefits?
Expressive writing – writing to heal
Some of the most dramatic therapeutic evidence comes from this style of writing where traumatic experiences, negative thoughts and feelings are given an outlet by writing them down. The goal is simply to give the writer an outlet to deal with their trauma. There has been research which shows that this form of writing therapy can dramatically decrease anxiety and depression symptoms, improve lung function, reduce blood pressure, and increase immune system functioning! Amazing.
Free writing – no rules
Just as it says, there are no rules and no boundaries to this style of writing. You are free to write about whatever you want. The cathartic effect comes from reflecting on what you’ve written.
This is all about writing down what you are most thankful for in your life – usually done every day. Anecdotal evidence suggests that journallers have seen an improvement in overall wellbeing, better sleep, more positivity, and better motivation to get through their day, all because of the process of physically documenting what they are grateful for.
Poetry is a wonderful form of writing that offers an outlet for both creativity and self-expression. The metaphorical and/or philosophical approach can be therapeutic. It can also appeal to those mathematically-minded who enjoy working with rhythm, rhyme and meter.
Writing therapy doesn’t have to be all about you either. There is great benefit in writing to someone else. You may use this method of writing to repair broken relationships or reconnect with someone, or simply to express your fondness for a family member or friend.
There are many ways to use writing as therapy, depending on your mood, and according to what suits your needs at a given time. I’m not convinced that sitting down to write 10 business emails or 30 social media posts is going to do anything for your muddled emotional state, but the other forms of writing discussed above just may. The wonderful thing about writing therapy is that it’s portable, accessible, and affordable – an excellent tool for self-care. All you need is a notebook and pen and some solitude. Go ahead and give writing therapy a go next time you’re feeling a little lost, uncertain, hurt, vulnerable or anxious.
Have you ever used writing as therapy?
Here’s a couple of other blogs from the Writing as Therapy vaults, that you might find helpful.