It may sound strange, but emotional writing is the most economical form of therapy. Think about it: all you need is a blank page, a pencil, sometimes a laptop, and your mind. You may not be one of those people used to writing texts, stories, or novels, and you may even be the one who always got straight F grades for school essays. Still, in this channel of expression, you don’t need to resort to inventiveness, nor does anyone demand stylistic neatness from you. What’s more, everything you write has to be private.
You will be your own therapist, and you will delve into your emotions to untangle that inner skein that sometimes paralyzes us and takes our breath away — the engine to run every day. We assure you that this blank page can be the perfect mechanism to find yourself and liberate yourself from what is bothering you at the moment.
The psychological benefits of writing
The American psychologist James Pennebaker, a professor at the University of Texas, has conducted an in-depth and exhaustive study on therapeutic writing. According to him, this simple exercise is a perfect key to unlocking that complex inner world we all have.
There are indeed many people who already practice it, who carry their little diary in their handbag so that, at any given moment, they can write down everything that worries them, that hurts them. There are also people who prefer digital expression and writing for the audience: “why should I hide my writings in a small diary when I can write my essays online to create the whole discussion” they think.
Writing one’s thoughts can be beneficial for a person’s emotional well-being, and here is how:
- It helps to discover and understand a person’s own emotions
It opens up a personal mechanism to delve into our thoughts and emotions: what am I feeling now, is it anger or sadness, why do I feel this way, what has provoked it, what can I do to feel better?
- It helps to avoid stress
By exposing these ideas, we can reduce stress little by little through tackling all those walls in our lives that day by day are taking away our energy. Writing about them is a perfect way to recognize these obstacles, naming them to face them through a series of ideas that we will write down.
- It can teach us self-control
Personal writing can be a perfect psychotherapeutic and self-help process, where we do not need professional intervention. If we do it right, if we are competent at recognizing problems and taking action, we will be masters of our lives by taking control for our own benefit.
- Writing helps physical well-being
This sense of self-empowerment to manage problems through writing brings us health and well-being. It strengthens our self-esteem and our immune system by bringing happiness and peace of mind, leaving stress and anxiety aside.
- We obtain self-knowledge and motivation
When we write, we always seek a moment for ourselves. In this way, we give ourselves precious time to think about our lives, practicing the always necessary introspection.
We learn to set goals, plans, alternatives for action, priorities, etc. Writing about these realities, including our desires, motivates us more intensely by personalizing ideas and gives us the strength to bring about change.
- It helps us release emotions
Writing about our thoughts allows us to vent emotions, feelings, and thoughts. This personal intimacy is an ideal way to achieve this, as it is sometimes not easy for many people to express their inner world and even their needs out loud.
It also helps us to recognize emotions that otherwise we might not be able to understand fully. Sometimes it is difficult for us to admit that behind a feeling of rage or anger, for example, lies vulnerability or sadness, that behind self-perfection lies insecurity, and so on. They are all just masks that we all wear in everyday life and of which we are not fully aware.
Don’t hesitate. Practice therapeutic writing. It doesn’t require money or even good handwriting, especially if you choose to use digital tools as your diary. No one will read your words or judge your thoughts if you don’t post them publicly. It is a universe of our own to develop to find ourselves.
3 therapeutic writing exercises
If you want to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of writing, here are some ways to do it.
- Automatic writing
This technique consists of simply writing the first thing that comes into your head, without erasing, crossing out, or stopping to think. The purpose is not to create an elaborate literary work but to let the ideas flow freely, without interruption of our judgments, morals, shame, or logic.
To use it therapeutically, bring up a problem or issue you want to solve. Then take pen and paper, and for at least half an hour, write down anything that crosses your mind.
If you come up with a shopping list, then write the shopping list. However, gently try to return to the issue you are concerned about without exerting pressure. Always leave freedom for the association of ideas, so that logic does not get in the way of a possible solution.
- Write a letter to get over conflicts with someone
Writing a letter allows us to uncover our emotions and release them to resolve a conflict. In this case, the idea is not to find solutions – as in automatic writing – but to bring out what we feel, live it thoroughly, and discover what may lie beneath and even forgive.
Please note that this work is for you. This letter is not meant to be read by someone else but simply to serve as an exercise. Afterward, you can keep it, tear it up, burn it or do whatever you like.
- Reconstruct a memory
Relive an anecdote from your life that you want to remember more kindly. Writing it as a third-person narrative and making the protagonist different from you takes a step back.
It’s about giving a new perspective (or even overcoming) some anecdote from your past. You may also begin to understand better the reactions of other people involved or to understand you more.