According to Harvard Medical School, expressive writing is a good way to deal with difficult emotions, like those stemming from a death, divorce or other stressful life experience.
Expressive writing involves writing down the feelings that arise from difficult life events you’re going through. Here’s how to test it out for yourself.
The University of Michigan says that writing in a journal is a great to feel more relaxed. The theory behind expressive writing is that when you get your emotions out on paper, you are better able to come to terms with them and figure out ways to work through them so that you can move forward with your life.
Getting started is easy.
All you need is a notebook or diary and something to write with. Spending just a few minutes each day writing about how you’re feeling is enough to get you on track.
Some people also find that writing down what they are grateful for really helps.
Improves Depression and Anxiety
One study, reported in U.S. News and World Report, says that writing about emotions boosts mental health. This is important for people who suffer from depression or anxiety due to a life event, such a car accident, loss of a child, or a traumatic injury.
It’s also a good way to control the emotions that arise due to post traumatic stress disorder.
While expressive writing can’t replace traditional methods of treatment for mental health conditions, including therapy and medication, it can certainly be used in conjunction with those methods.
The study found the most benefit comes from when people write about their feelings every day for at least two weeks.
How It Works
While the reasons why expressive writing is so beneficial aren’t completely understood, researchers theorize that it works by giving you an outlet for pent up feelings.
Letting your emotions out provides relief and clears your mind so you can come up with a solution to the problem. Writing about stressful and traumatic things is a good way to organize your disorganized thoughts and feelings about the situation, helping you cope.
Writing may also help you regulate your emotions by giving you more control over them and the experiences that have led to them.
Other researchers say that writing about what happened to you helps you distance yourself from the actual event, which allows you to gain control over your reaction to what happened. This step back makes it easier to cope with your emotions and helps you learn strategies for dealing with them.
Expressive writing has also been shown to improve sleep habits, lessen anxiety and increase memory in people who engage in it on a regular basis.
How to Do It
It might sound pretty self-explanatory, but experts offer some advice for how to do expressive writing and get the most benefits.
Instead of writing from an “I” point of view, try writing from a “he/she” point of view. By taking the viewpoint of an observer, you are better able to cope with the emotions you’re having and that boosts the chances that you’ll stick with writing.
Try 15 minutes of expressive writing for four days in a row. Then assess how you feel and create a daily writing ritual that works for you.
You might have always wanted to write a book or some poetry. Writing letters to friends and loved ones is equally good.
Writing outdoors is something that makes the experience more powerful for some people. You should start to see the benefits in just a few weeks!
Of course, you don’t have to always indulge in expressive writing to achieve the relaxation benefits. Any type of writing that acts a creative or emotional output is beneficial.
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