When most folks think about writing, they usually think about creative writing, correspondence or blogging – something for public consumption. But the simple act of putting pen to paper to express your thoughts and feelings “for your eyes only” can be both healing and transformative. It can lead to greater self-awareness, stress relief, increased happiness and even improved health. Regular writing of this type has been shown to ease chronic illness, boost the immune system and even improve sleep when done before bedtime.
I’m not talking about keeping a diary of daily activities and occurrences. I am talking about using writing on a regular or “as needed” basis to privately express yourself. It can be a way to vent on paper, clarify a confusing or troubling situation or emotion, say things to yourself and others that you don’t want anyone to ever see or read, and even reveal your deepest darkest fears and secrets. For example, there are certain aspects of my life that I still have trouble talking about. These are some of the things I write about in my journal.
When you write something down, you take it from the abstract (in your mind only) and make it concrete. This can be both cathartic and scary. For example, one of the reasons many people don’t put things down on paper is that they are afraid someone else will see it. But once you write something, you can destroy it or put it in a safe place. I once wrote a letter – something I did not intend to send – to someone from my past whom I had been carrying around a lot of anger toward. I wrote about my hurt and anger with tears rolling down my face. When I had finished, I felt remarkably calmer and at peace. I was finally able to let the incident go and move forward. I then tossed the letter into the fireplace and watched it go up in smoke… literally and figuratively.
Another reason some people are reluctant to write down their thoughts and feelings is that they think they can’t write well. Remember, we’re not talking about writing for publication here. We’re talking about writing to reveal, clarify, let go of, and heal. So write with abandon. Don’t proofread or correct. Let the words flow freely. Let go of criticism, judgment and analysis of your writing. In other words, just write. What’s important is the process, not the outcome.
If you have trouble sleeping or have a perplexing problem or concern on your mind, write about it before you go to bed as a way of releasing it. If you have been holding onto worries and fears, put them down on paper as a way of confronting and acknowledging them. If someone has hurt you and you do not have the opportunity or desire to confront them, vent on paper.
Write a “letter” to a child you have yet to conceive; to a lover you have yet to meet; to the person you hope to become, to the child you once were or never had the chance to be. Write a letter to your current self from your older, wiser self. What advice would you give yourself? What support would you lend? What praise and gratitude would you express?
Write your life’s story or at least write about one segment of your life, perhaps a very challenging one or a very joyous one. When you write about your life you often can see it in a different way than when you lived through it. Writing can help to relive joyous times, work through painful times, gain new insights, and even possibly resolve issues and leave behind hurt feelings.
Whether you use a leather-bound journal, spiral notebook, or legal pad, it makes no difference. Start writing today and experience greater health, happiness and well-being.