We already know that expressive writing can help depression, rumination, reduce cancer-related symptoms (study had people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings regarding the cancer). Writing can boost memory in college student (simply write about thoughts and feelings in coming to college).
The NYTimes blog post Writing your way to Happiness talks about how rewriting your personal story from a more hopeful perspective can help you feel better. Another idea is to write about an important topic to help you understand yourself more.
For example, if you write about why you don’t want to exercise, you may start with a number of excuses, but if you ask yourself to go deeper by starting with “the truth is” you might come to an insight that will help you get past the block.
If you want to use writing therapy to help you feel better, work through difficult experiences, or develop increased self understanding, here are some ideas to help you.
Sometimes doing things on your own is a challenge. Do you want to write more but don’t know where to start? Are you critical of your efforts? Do you have a hard time following through?
Writing and sharing with others can be extremely useful psychologically especially when there is no pressure to critique or edit your writing. I have also found that spontaneous writing from your heart can open creative channels and reduce blocks to creativity, freeing your inner critic from its harsh role.
You can use writing to help you solve a problem (as in the example above) by looking deeper into yourself for more information rather than wracking your brain for an answer. This can happen when you write directly from your own experience and also when you write from a story you have heard about or make a story up. This can allow room in yourself to let your writing take you where you need to go.
Here is an example of how to approach this way of problem solving:
Find a topic, problem, concern, or event you want to write about. This could be general, like a parent’s death, or specific, like what happened one day it the past week. It could be something you want to stop avoiding, or a behavior you want to change. It could also be something you heard someone say to you or to someone else. (eavesdropping is fine for writers!)
One way to get started is to find a writing prompt that is randomly chosen. You could open a book you like to a random page and choose a phrase. If it’s a book of poetry you could use a line of image from a poem. Give yourself 10-20 minute to write, or less if you have trouble settling in. Any amount of time is a good start. The process of centering while focusing on your writing is similar to meditation in that you can enter your inner world and look aroung to connect with what’s there. You can write a journal entry that incorporates the prompt to fit what would work for you in your writing. If you feel adventurous, write a story about another person or people that incorporates the topic you are thinking about. Let your imagination take the story wherever it wants to start and wherever it wants to go. When you are done, check in with your writing to see if you can find any hidden meaning that may have come up for you.
Writing therapy can be like a night dream or a day dream and can bring up material from your unconscious. It might be subtle at first, but clues and ideas can come from exploring your thoughts and feeling through writing in this way.