It’s true. Life is complicated.
From time to time, we face difficulties we think we can’t cope with. While it might sound strange, there are instances where writing therapy can help. In fact, it’s one of the most effective means to improve a person’s internal state.
In the article below, I’ll give you some tips on how to turn writing into medicine.
Writing is a psychotherapeutic tool- no doubt about it. Writing about your life can make you feel better. What is important here is not only the presentation of your thoughts on the paper, but also your attitude to what you’re writing.
It doesn’t matter if you write on paper or type on a computer. It should be more about how writing makes you feel.
About 30 years ago, James Pennebaker, a professor at the University of Texas, found out that when someone writes about his experiences, that person is able to relieve stress and improve his mental and physical health.
Since that observation, the professor has published more than 300 papers on the subject, which is more than enough to test the effectiveness of any psychological practice.
In his first study, Pennebaker worked with two groups of people: control and experimental. Each participant came to an empty room, where there was a table on which lay a sheet of paper, a pen, and the task. The control group wrote about something ordinary and insignificant like, for example, what they ate for breakfast. The experimental group disclosed something exciting and meaningful that they had never told anyone before.
The experiment lasted four days. As a result, the people who had written on everyday topics had no changes over the course of the experiment. However, those who had shared difficult situations and moments of life were able to relieve stress. The results showed that they took drugs two times less often and sought medical assistance less than before the experiment.
Everyone has a need to speak about his life and share events and ideas with other people. If there’s no time or suitable companion, then that person feels the need to restrain his feelings and thoughts. This type of self-restriction often leads to chronic stress which, in turn, causes physical illnesses.
Writing about something meaningful for 15 minutes a day helps even in severe cases. Studies have shown that asthmatics experienced reduced number and intensity of attacks. Patients who have rheumatoid arthritis felt less pain while patients with cancer were less likely to wake up at night.
The greatest thing about this method of relieving stress and pain is that it’s not hard to get used to. Unlike conventional drugs that may or may not help you, writing is free and has no side effects. With how beneficial it is, writing therapy is now considered as a great way to relieve stress in hospitals, prisons and schools.
How to Write to Feel Better
Writing, undoubtedly, is a powerful tool. Despite the benefits it offers, it can still cause you to hurt yourself, especially if you aren’t really aware of how to use it properly for stress relief.
Pennebaker suggested that you first write expressively and then reflexively.
Writing expressively means that you write with the flow of your feelings and you express without self-censorship. It involves writing feelings in all their complexity and honesty. That is to write them as they are.
There is no need to write formally and neatly. It doesn’t even have to be fully thought out. The key point is to catch what worries you in the moment.
Then, after a short break, you take a step back and look at the written text from a different perspective. Try to read it again objectively. By this time, you should be out of the flow of your feelings which means you’ll be able to analyze what you’ve written.
Determine what feelings came to you and how you feel after reading your notes. This may push you towards some reflections, self-dialogue and self-assessment.
To make sure you won’t worry about other people reading your writing and then be able to use it against you, you should also think about how you will keep your records (if you decide to keep them) so as not to expose yourself to such a danger.
One tip to make writing easier is to act as if you are talking to someone. It can be a friend or even God. When you write about your life and what is significant for you, it is best to present yourself as you are, with all the emotions that you feel.
Another thing that you should be aware of is that diving too deep into unpleasant and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings won’t bring anything good to you. If ever you find yourself in such state, you have to know how to “float” back to reality and the present situation.
Writing therapy can be applied not only when you have problems. You can also write about something joyful or exciting to encourage and motivate yourself.
Structuring in Writing
Structuring is another important factor to consider when writing. To understand what this is, let us first consider the opposite approach.
Many are familiar with “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron. Cameron talks about free writing. It’s when you write for 30 minutes about what you have in mind at the moment, without any particular method or order. You can refer to it as non-structured writing.
Kathleen Adams, a Director of the Institute of Writing Therapy, conducted a study on the importance of structuring as opposed to free writing. She found out that the stronger the stress, the more the person needs structure when writing.
Therefore, if you have an excessive amount of stress, the best method is to set the timer for 5-6 minutes. During this time, it is very difficult to hurt yourself seriously but it is enough to help you get out as much emotions and thoughts as possible.
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Author: Lucy Adams
Lucy Adams is a freelance writer and blogger from buzzessay.com. Although she’s a generalist, most of all she loves to cover topics related to education, writing, and language learning. These three attracts Lucy so much that so almost never leaves them without attention. Feel free to suggest something intriguing and let the author bring it to life exclusively for you.