Written by Sarah Loker
Did you know that writing is a wonderful mindfulness practice, and a powerful tool to support mental health? We’re not talking about writing award-winning novels or stories here, but instead about writing for therapeutic and healing reasons. Examples of these types of writing techniques are creative writing, reflective writing, automatic writing, and expressive writing. Keep reading to find out more about these different forms, and how writing can heal us. For those who are new to writing, or anyone feeling apprehensive about getting started, know that you aren’t required to be an established author or even confident at writing to experience the benefits, so what are you waiting for! Pick up your pen and paper, get writing, and feel better for it.
Writing helps to express and process thoughts, emotions, and feelings
Have you ever felt like you cannot make sense of what’s going on in your head? Ever felt stuck in a mental loop of ruminating and that you just can’t stop thinking about something? Writing can help us make sense of chaotic or confusing thoughts and feelings, because when we write about our internal world, we externalise it and get these emotions and feelings out of our system. And this can be for both positive and negative feelings and sensations. Writing requires us to articulate feelings about us and others in some form - whether that be a stream of consciousness brain dump, a journal or diary entry, or a piece of creative writing like a poem or piece of prose - and this can give a shape and sense of order to the chaos.
Writing can help us deal with difficult or traumatic experiences and events
The famous writer Ernest Hemingway said that writers should “write hard and clear about what hurts”. This is backed by research that suggests that writing about something that has negatively impacted us can help improve our mental health. Bottling up emotions and repressing challenging times isn’t healthy, and can contribute to a wide range of physical and psychological health concerns. So when we write about these difficult experiences, we are able to express them in a healthy way - writing offers a safe, confidential and free way to disclose emotions that were previously bottled up. This is known as expressive writing, and studies have found it to be particularly powerful for those who have experienced trauma. While it may seem counterintuitive that writing about negative experiences has a positive effect, research has shown that narrating the story of a past negative event or an ongoing anxiety ‘frees up’ cognitive resources.
Writing increases awareness - of ourselves, of others, and of our world
Writing requires both observation and imagination, and can encourage new perceptions of your environment and surroundings, as well as of others and of ourselves. Self-awareness is an ability to turn our attention inwards towards the self. By turning our attention inward, we can become more aware of our traits, behaviours, feelings, thought patterns, beliefs, values, and motivations. And research suggests that becoming more self-aware can be beneficial in a number of ways - it increases our confidence and encourages us to be more accepting of others, as well as helping us exercise more self-control and make better decisions aligned with our core values and beliefs. Reflective writing is a great way to boost self-awareness - this is often used in work settings as a way for professionals to evaluate their performance and to become better at their jobs, by reflecting on professional practice in a critical, analytical way, as a way to learn from the experience and do better next time. But it can also be used for more personal reasons, by reflecting on personal experiences, your progress in reaching personal goals and aspirations, what you have achieved, and areas of your personal life you wish to improve or make changes to.
Join us at The Studio for our next Writing for Wellbeing workshop - Write to Unwind, on Saturday 16th September, 12-2pm. This workshop is led by Sam, an IAPT Mental Health Coach and Writing for Wellbeing Coordinator and Facilitator for a mental health charity, who has for the past 10 years worked in 1:1 support and recovery, and facilitated groups both in person and online. Sam is driven by the belief that everyone has the potential to be creative, and by unleashing their creativity can gain a powerful tool for managing their wellbeing. The workshop will be a therapeutic experience, where you will be gently guided through a variety of writing exercises drawn from creative and therapeutic writing forms to help you unwind, relax, de-stress and feel revived. You’ll leave the workshop with writing tools you can use in your own time to help you manage daily stresses and challenges. This workshop is suitable for all levels and abilities, from the curious and beginners, to those who enjoy writing regularly. Tickets are £30 per person. To find out more or to book on to the workshop, head to the following link - https://www.thestudiobartlow.co.uk/service-page/write-to-unwind-with-sam?referral=service_list_widget
‘Writing Well: Creative Writing and Mental Health’ by Debra Penman