Writing is a meta-cognitive activity, meaning it provides access to our mind’s internal discourse. Normally this discourse proceeds at an unnoticeable pace. Ideas rise and fall, merging transparently while unconscious patterns chaotically shuffle our mood and focus. When writing we must stop to translate our thoughts into written words and sentences. These create external representations to which we are able to actively respond. This allows us to structure, redirect and channel our mental thought process more willingly and more effectively.
This article discusses 3 of the most direct and powerful ways to apply writing in this psychological way.
1: Cognitive Behavior Tool
So much of our life is dictated by negative unconscious mental behaviors and patterns. Yet slowing down, analyzing and overcoming these thoughts can be enormously difficult. We can use writing as a simplified, yet effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy to help us. By recognizing and controlling the thoughts we have, we can control our actions and affect our behavior. This process can be used when attempting to break a habit, to overcome a pervasive negative mood or in developing a more optimistic explanatory style. Write down how you are feeling or what you are thinking and then question where these thoughts or feelings came from. Try to recognize patterns and reinforced unconscious behaviors. Pay careful attention to thoughts that carry personally negative connotations. After writing this down try to look back and re-frame your mental responses. Take the role of an objective outsider and challenge yourself. You will probably find that your thoughts are being determined more by your own mental bias than the actual reality of your situation. You can then begin to write out a more effective response to create your desired action. You can learn a lot about yourself and develop good mental response strategies.
2. Problem Solving Method
When working on an especially challenging or complex task the mind can be chaotic. Unless you are extremely disciplined, you will be thinking about a variety of different possible solutions to different parts of the problem. It is also easy to feel overwhelmed. In this case your mind may just shut down entirely or keep repeating the same thoughts, leaving you feeling dumbstruck. You can use writing to establish order and focus. Think about where you are right now in the problem. What needs to be solved before you can move forward? Try to narrow this down as much as you can until you have a direct one or two sentence objective. Write this objective down. Now write down all the possible solutions to this objective that are floating around in your mind. Finally work your way through each proposed solution like a checklist. When you have solved your current objective start over and craft your next objective to systematically work through the overall problem or project.
3. Positive Reinforcement and Action Strategy
In most cases, I believe the process of setting goals is psychologically self defeating. In setting a goal you are invariably focusing on the outcome when you should be focusing on the process itself. Focusing too much on the end result puts you into an unsustainable mindset of striving and mental exertion. Your limited reserve of willpower becomes your only weapon.
You can use writing to create a system that positively reinforces your work, your action or your positive habit. In doing this you can start to re-tune your mind’s unconscious tendencies in your favor. It is fine to start with an outcome in mind but use this outcome as a compass rather than a finish line. Use it to guide rather than motivate your work.
For each small completed objective or successful day, write down a direct positive acknowledgment. Each time you succeed in some aspect of your activity or make progress, write it down and attach a small positive note. By doing this your mind will begin to attach a positive connotation to the process itself. Instead of attempting to drive yourself forward to complete a goal, your mind will start to naturally draw you back to the activity. You are creating a positively reinforcing feeling of enjoyment and success. Don't empower 'failures' or missed days. Instead focus on building and reinforcing the activity. By using this process you will create a more optimistic attitude and an intrinsic mental motivation.
|Written on 8/8/2013 by John Stemler. John is the recent creator of MindSelfWorld. I look at findings and research in modern psychology and social science to create strategies for finding happiness and discovering purpose.|
Photo Credit: Jeffrey James Pacres