How To Mentally Heal Yourself?: Expressive Writing Therapy
The Pen As Your Greatest Ally
There are many creative ways to use the arts (music, dance, painting, writing) for therapeutic purposes. Whether or not you consider yourself creative, these various uses of art can create new avenues for self-expression, self-awareness, and self-healing. I personally find solace in writing therapy. From fiction to short-and-quick opinion pieces, there’s some form of curative power in just writing something down. For most people, this is something as simple as keeping a diary or journal for daily thoughts to help them reflect.
No matter how you choose to express those inner thoughts, creating a habit of writing, I think, is always a good place to start. It helps to remember that what you’ve written isn’t the main point. I believe the therapy is in the process: the process of writing, the process of reading what you’ve written, the process of working through your emotions in an honest way and being able to take something positive and useful with you.
What is Expressive Writing Therapy?
Expressive writing therapy uses writing and reflecting on said writing to process one’s feelings and allows for enlightenment, self-awareness, and personal growth. It has the added benefit of being low-cost, accessible, and versatile. All you really need is a pen, paper, and to be present. Writing therapy can be done individually with the aforementioned pen and paper, it can be supervised by a mental health professional, or it may be done in a group setting with group discussions on writing. Best of all, it is a great supplement to other forms of therapy. The possibilities and potential of incorporating writing therapy are vast as you can ensure that it is conducive to how you need to express your thoughts.
Three (3) Effective Methods Of Therapeutic Writing
- Freewrite – Freewriting, or journaling as the name suggests, is simply writing what’s on your mind. It’s allowing yourself to jot down completely uncensored thoughts that are the true caption of the traffic inside your mind. It’s letting it all hang out without censoring yourself. You can allow yourself to follow the natural progression so that when you revisit it you can decipher how you process events and what you prioritize when faced with a problem. It doesn’t matter if they’re negative or disturbing. Trying to hide those thoughts rather than to acknowledge them does more harm than good. When you face those dark thoughts, it’s easier for you to actively turn them into positives or constructive and gives you an idea of what you can work on.
- Write Poetry – Writing poetry can seem very daunting. For a lot of us, when we think of poetry we think of it as having to be written in a certain style, in a certain tone, or following certain rules. However, poetry is self-expression. The only rule it follows is that it renders what feels true to you. For me, I’ve found luck with creating a “snapshot” in my mind of an idea or memory and describe it – not in a literal sense but rather in the way it makes me feel. I try my best to express the emotions associated with the experience which is helpful when I reflect on the piece afterward, which helps me to process my feelings. The easiest way to figure out how to start writing poetry is by starting small – quick, short, impromptu bursts of writing throughout your day in a portable notepad or even on your phone.
- Compose A Letter – Writing a letter whether to a loved one, a lost connection, someone you have unresolved feelings for, or just a person you couldn’t directly express yourself to, is a great way to release a lot of emotional and mental pressure from keeping things bottled up. The best part is you don’t have to send it. This exercise is for you. It is for you to gain clarity and understand your feelings and thoughts about that person.
Benefits Of Expressive Writing Therapy
Practicing therapeutic writing has many researched and studied benefits that can improve many facets of your life:
- It can improve memory.
- Provides healing for those who have experienced a traumatic or extremely stressful event.
- It has been noted that it can improve immune system functions.
- Aids in finding meaning in your experiences. It allows you to challenge your perspective and find your strengths and weakness to allow you to be mindful of future stressful and negative situations.
It can also become complementary therapy for those suffering from:
- Grief and loss
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Low self-esteem
- Interpersonal relationship issues
Writing is simple, cost-effective, and for you, it can become something powerful. This is your self-care; allow it to become and always be something you enjoy and can rely on to be all the words you couldn’t or were afraid to say. Just always remember: take your time, start small, unchain your mind and most importantly, write for yourself.
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