Writing can improve your mental wellbeing!

Yes, really - research has shown that writing is good for our mental health. It seems to be due to a couple of reasons. One of them is that it can be cathartic to write about traumatic past experiences, and another is that reflective writing can help us become more self-aware. Bottling up difficult experiences often leads to psychological distress, so spilling it all down on the page can help you come to terms with what happened. Some of my counselling clients have written letters to people who have hurt or angered them in the past - not to send, but just so that they get the chance to say what they'd like to say. Some have written poems, or autobiographical stories, whilst others have simply written words that express their feelings - even just a list of expletives in some cases! All felt better after writing about how they felt, and it also often made it easier for them to talk to me about it, too, so they then had my acknowledgement of their pain. Through reflective writing we can learn more about ourselves - if we're really honest in what we write (and if we're not, we're really only lying to ourselves) we may get to a much deeper understanding of who we are, and what we need from life and those around us. We may realise that we have emotions that we haven't been fully conscious of before - anger, shame, hurt, regret - and having acknowledged them, can work through why we have them, and what to do about them, often realising that it's time to let them go. I've found that frequently, what we need, is that recognition - from ourselves, or from somebody else, that we have those feelings, thoughts, emotions (and perhaps that they were justified) before we're able to let go of them. Often, people want to fix things for us, but there's so much that can't be fixed, and what we do need is for that pain to really be acknowledged - whether it's by somebody else, or simply by ourselves. I also suggest to some of my clients to keep a food diary - not just what they eat, but their feelings and emotions, and what's going on for them at the time. It can be really useful to note triggers to unhealthy eating patterns - and to see how much better we feel when we've been eating healthily, as that will encourage us to continue. We can feel very low if we've binged on unhealthy food - partly because it induces guilt and shame, but also because that food may make us feel sluggish and lacking in energy. Eating healthily can make us feel better both physically and psychologically. Documenting all this helps us understand our bodies and how to look after them as well as we can.


So, by writing "hard and clear about what hurts" as Hemingway encouraged (quoted in Thatcher, 2021), we understand ourselves better, and it may enable us to work through our problems, either by ourselves or with others, more successfully.


References:


Thatcher, C. 17 June 2021, 'Writing can improve mental health - here's how', Online in The Conversation (https://theconversation.com/writing-can-improve-mental-health-heres-how-162205)




2 views0 comments