I recommend journal writing to all of my clients as a way to help them sort through how they think and feel. Writing helps to make sense of your thoughts when you are confused, your feelings when they are intense and your choices when there are many.
Writing in an excellent way to understand the past. Through re-experiencing past events by writing about them in new ways we can heal ourselves. When we push away thoughts, feelings and memories without truly acknowledging them, we leave feelings unresolved. Ignoring the thoughts might be a temporary solution but the feelings are still there and manifest in other areas of your life if not fully understood, acknowledged and accepted at some point. Writing also serves you well when thinking about the future and any blocks that may be interfering with achieving certain goals for yourself. It can help to get your worries out of your body by putting them onto paper; as opposed to holding them in and letting them affect different elements of your life.
The Benefits of Writing
Writing provides an opportunity for a more mature and balanced perspective on your life in the following ways:
-understanding how you feel and what causes certain emotions for you
-developing new perspectives on old problems
-thinking about what you need more or less of in your life
-defining what’s important to you
-discovering what hurts you
-finding what you want from life
-deciding how you will get what you want
-sorting out what you want to say to others
-creating plans of action
-developing goals for yourself
-understanding your personal values better
Writing as a Coping Skill
The incredible part about writing is that it is a coping skill that will always be there for you. By developing this coping skill you will also develop the ability to help yourself in times of distress. Try being more compassionate and supportive to yourself as your write. Social support can provide similar benefits but writing is there for you around the clock no matter where you are. Also, writing something on paper may make it easier to share with people around you. Therefore, it will also help you make the most of your social support.
How to Write
A lot of people think that they don’t have the best writing skills, but the kind of journal writing I am talking about, requires no prior writing experience. The goal of this writing is to simply let your thoughts flow freely onto paper, without censoring yourself. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write in a certain way; just write what flows out of your mind. If you feel stuck and can’t think about what to write, write about that! Often, accepting that you are stuck can help you figure out what is blocking you or reduce any pressure you are putting on yourself about the writing process. You can even delete or get ride of the writing promptly if you worry about others finding it. You can write notes on your personal computer or perhaps you may want to create a special notebook for this work. Think about which method you would prefer.
When and Where to Write
Choose a time and place when you feel most comfortable. Somewhere where you are unlikely to be interrupted and somewhere quiet. Set aside about twenty minutes for your first few writing exercises. Also, to get comfortable, some people find it helpful to do transitional rituals to switch from the day-to-day mind frame to being able to focus on yourself for a bit. You might try lighting some candles to relax you, taking a few deep breaths, doing yoga stretches, having a cup of tea, or closing your eyes and clearing your mind for a few minutes. Also, at the end of the writing a closing ritual can be done to help transition you back into your daily life. These beginning and ending rituals will help you feel safer and contain the writing experience better. Closing rituals are a must if you are writing about a particularly hard topic. Be sure to end on a good note by writing about positive aspects of yourself, recognizing strengths and accomplishments related to the topic you were writing about, or reflecting on a happy memory. You can also take time to yourself after to do something comforting like take a warm bath, or a long walk. A few deep breaths will help ground your emotions as well before moving on with your day.
Here are some topics that I frequently encourage my clients to write about when they are just starting to experience the process of writing. You can try these topics out as a starting exercise:
- – What are your most important values?
- – When do you feel most happiest?
- – What makes you the most sad right now in your life? What are some small goals that you can do to start creating change in this area?
- – Write a list of all the valuable and important qualities and skills that you have. Take some time to focus on the positive parts of yourself! If this is hard to do, think about what a close friend might tell you these are.