Have you ever felt down, helpless? Do you find that stress drains your well-being and routine seems to be a dead end? Of course, we all go through difficult situations that affect our mood.
Writing can be a very powerful resource for regaining stability in times of crisis; it will help you face your problems and make you see possible solutions in a different light.
Art as a therapeutic weapon
Art can heal. In general, any enjoyable activity, while keeping our minds clear of worries, will have a positive impact on our mental health.
For people with a knack for art, dancing, drawing, playing an instrument, or painting, these are fantastic methods for channeling emotional development and promoting psychological well-being. You can think of yourself as good at creating art, but you don’t need to have specific skills to reap these benefits. You go there to be more creative and express your emotions, which do not require any virtuosity.
A good resource may be therapeutic writing. You don’t have to be a prolific author or a poet, all you need is paper, pen, and the motivation to write.
What is therapeutic writing?
Also known as an emotional journal, this is exactly how it sounds: Keep a journal, where you will record what you have felt throughout the day, for therapeutic purposes.
Writing as therapy is affordable, straightforward, and can be a good adjunct to other treatments. It can be done individually, just us and a pencil, or it can be supervised by a mental health professional. It is also possible to share it with other people, as part of group therapy focused on writing.
Whatever we choose, writing will contribute to our personal growth, To better express and communicate our emotions and encourage the feeling of having our life and our thoughts under control.
It is not difficult to see the potential that therapeutic writing can have, there is nothing more than looking at the poets and narrators of all time who define the contact of paper and pen as a cathartic experience. As Henry Miller states in his book “Sexus”: “A man writes to expel all the poison he has accumulated due to his false way of life.”
Fundamental Differences Between Conventional and Emotional Journal
While writing for therapy may seem as easy as writing a journal, it is more than that. We can distinguish three major differences between a conventional journal and the emotional journal:
- Anyone who decides to write a journal does so freely, without following any rules and without writing down whatever comes to mind, while therapeutic writing is more guided and almost always based on specific guidelines and exercises.
- When writing a journal we focus on capturing experiences as they occur, while in an emotional journal we need to reflect on them, interact with each situation and analyze what we are thinking. and let’s feel every moment before writing it.
- Writing a journal is an absolutely personal and private experience. In contrast, an emotional journal almost always contains the advice and guidance of a mental health professional.
There is, moreover, another big difference between these two writing practices: the increase of our emotional well-being.
Benefits of writing as a therapeutic tool
Keeping a simple journal can certainly be helpful as it improves memory, helps you remember small everyday events, or just helps you relax at the end of the day. While these benefits are no less, with therapeutic writing we can go further.
In people who have been through a traumatic or very stressful event, expressing themselves through writing can have a great healing effect. In fact, writing about our traumatic experiences for 15 minutes for four days in a row improves our mood, which is maintained over time (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005).
Other studies conclude that patients with asthma and arthritis, who wrote about the most traumatic experiences of their lives, experienced marked improvement in their assessment of their disease (Smyth, Stone, Hurewitz and Kaell , 1999).
A recent study suggests that this type of writing may even improve the immune system, although in this case the practice should be maintained more consistently (Murray, 2002).
In addition to all of these tangible physical and emotional results, practicing therapeutic writing on a regular basis can help us find more meaning in our experiences, see things from a different perspective, and bring out the positive side. unpleasant events. It can also lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our surroundings which is difficult to achieve without emotionally focused writing (Tartakovsky, 2015).
Usually, therapeutic writing has been shown to be effective in the treatment of many mental ailments and illnesses, Comprising:
- eating disorders
- low self-esteem
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Grieving or loss process
- interpersonal relationships
How to write an emotional journal
There are several ways to start writing for therapeutic purposes. If you are in therapy with a psychologist, they can tell you the best way to start.
If you are considering going into this type of writing on your own before seeing a therapist, here are some tips to help you.
First, you need to choose the way which is most convenient for you to achieve better result:
- Use whatever format you’re most comfortable with, whether it’s a classic planner, a simple notepad, a computer program, or a blog.
- If that motivates you, you can customize your decorating notebook however you like.
- Make it your goal to write each day and decide how, when and where you will write each day; it will create a habit.
- Write down first why you decided to start writing. This could be the first entry on your calendar.
Then follow these five steps:
- Think about what you want to write about. Write it.
- Think about it: breathe, close your eyes, and focus.
- Explore your thoughts and what you are feeling. Start writing and don’t stop.
- Control the weather. Write for 5 to 15 minutes at a stretch.
- Proofread and revise what you have written and summarize in one or two sentences.
Finally, as you write, keep in mind that:
- It doesn’t matter if you write a few lines or several pages; write at your own pace.
- Don’t worry too much about what you’re writing about, just focus on taking your time writing and keeping your full attention on it.
- It’s not about writing well in a formal sense, the important thing is to write what is meaningful to you and which flows naturally.
- Write as if you were just reading it yourself, so you can be more authentic and not seek recognition.
It can be difficult at first, you know the first step is always the hardest. Keeping up the interest and not giving up on engagement will be your next challenge.
Ideas and tips for writing your emotional journal
If you’re feeling stuck and not sure how to continue writing, here are some ideas that may help:
- To write letters; they can be directed against yourself or against others.
- Automatic writing. Write down everything that comes to your mind.
- Make an outline. You can write your problem in the center and draw branches that start from showing him different aspects.
- Use a photo from your personal album and ask yourself, “How do I feel seeing these photos? How do I feel about the people, places or things in them?
- He ends these sentences: “What worries me the most is …”, “I have trouble sleeping when …”, “My happiest memory is …”.
- Make lists. For example, things that make me sad, reasons to get up in the morning, things that I like, things that make me smile, etc.
- If there is something that particularly worries you, write it in the third person; it will help you take a step back.
- Dump of thoughts. Think about a specific topic, like an event from your childhood, without paying attention to grammar or spelling, and just write continuously for 5 minutes.
These tips can serve as an introduction to writing as therapy to improve your personal balance and keep your mind in control, while you consider seeking psychological help. At the same time, they will help you improve your self-esteem and, most importantly, get to know yourself.
- Burns, George (2001). 101 Healing Stories: Using Metaphors in Therapy, Wiley.
- García Pintos, Claudio (2001). “Speech therapy in fairy tales”; Ed. San Pablo, Buenos Aires.
- Saint Girons, Cecilia (2005). “Reading and its therapeutic effect”.