If you’ve ever wondered, how can writing be therapeutic for people, the answer is simple. It isn’t only regular or professional writers who find it therapeutic either because anyone who writes in a journal every night can benefit from doing so. When people write, something magical happens, in part because most writing comes right from the heart.
Writing with Emotion
Writing can be therapeutic in many ways because behind every good piece of writing are strongly felt emotions and feelings. In fact, this is the best way for many people to deal with many of these feelings because writing about what you’re feeling is extremely therapeutic. Of course, that’s not the only advantage to writing when you have emotions that you’re not sure what to do with.
If you’re writing a story, you can make your characters say and do anything you like. Sometimes getting back at an ex or dealing with a loss can best be expressed through your characters. These acts have a great effect on a person’s psyche and will definitely help you deal with a difficult situation. There are also many other ways that writing can be therapeutic, including:
- You sleep a lot better. This is because you can get so many of your emotions out every time that you write about them.
- It helps you deal with any unfinished business that you have. Writing a letter to a deceased parent is a perfect example of this.
- You can heal old wounds by writing. Writing both novels and journal entries can be cathartic this way.
- It gives you some distance from the problem. Writing allows you to take a step back and take an honest look at the problem so that you can decide what to do next.
- It helps you decipher some of your dreams. Writing down your dreams helps put them together so that you can research what they mean.
- You can minimize the conflicts that you are having with other people. Rather than getting into a confrontation with a difficult person, you can write about it instead and avoid any trouble.
- It improves your relationships. People are simply happier when they write regularly and this goes a long way in building up your relationships with others.
Emotions, both good and bad, are dealt with much better when you write about them so whether you write in a journal every night or you’re writing a short story or novel to deal with your feelings, it is guaranteed to be beneficial to you. It even produces long-term results that you are certain to enjoy.
Writing can be so therapeutic to people that there is even a type of writing called “therapeutic writing.” If you’re going through something especially difficult, such as cancer, therapeutic writing can be a true miracle worker. There are few, if any, rules when it comes to therapeutic writing because the emphasis isn’t on good grammar and technique; it is on the purpose of the writing instead.
When you are in a position where you can benefit from some type of therapy — for instance, if you are undergoing cancer treatments — writing helps keep your thoughts and feelings organized and expressed in a safe way. It also intensifies the mind-body-spirit connection so that you can move past those feelings and feel better both physically and emotionally.
Below are the three main types of therapeutic writing:
- Poetry. For many people, writing poems is the perfect way to deal with their emotions. Poems are short so you don’t have to spend a lot of time on them and they don’t even have to rhyme. This makes them the perfect outlet for people who wish to write in order to aid their therapy.
- Letters. Writing letters to people in order to explain your feelings to them or even to offer an apology is a great way to enjoy some therapy through writing. This is especially true when you realize that you don’t have to mail the letters after you write them.
- Free writing. Writing in a journal is a way to experience free writing. You can write anything that you wish because there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to free writing. In fact, you don’t even have to write more than a sentence or two if you don’t want to!
Not only does writing help you deal with your emotions and let out anger but it can also relieve stress, ease your depression, and help you relax and enjoy life more. Best of all, the writing doesn’t have to be anything structured or formal. You can simply buy a journal and start writing. The results are guaranteed to be fantastic.
The Physical Effects of Therapeutic Writing
Much to many people’s surprise, there are actual physiological benefits to writing when you’re dealing with intense emotions and feelings. Writing for therapeutic reasons helps a person in many ways, including the following:
- It lowers your blood pressure.
- It improves lung function in people with asthma and other problems.
- It increases mobility and decreases pain if you have rheumatoid arthritis.
- It eases many of the physical symptoms associated with certain types of cancer.
In addition, many HIV patients have experienced higher CD4 lymphocyte counts, which help balance the immune system, when they write about negative experiences. Patients receiving the Hepatitis B vaccine also enjoy a better immune system when they too write about their negative or traumatic experiences. Even people experiencing PTSD can benefit from therapeutic writing because it relieves many of their symptoms.
These are but a few things to consider when you’ve asked yourself, how can writing be therapeutic?, but they are certainly not the only benefits to therapeutic writing. Therapeutic writing has been shown to help the physical symptoms of people with irritable bowel syndrome, behavioral problems, and maladaptive rumination, among many others.
Writing as a Form of Therapy Is Simple and Unstructured
Writing as a part of your therapy is non-structured and has very few rules so you can essentially write whatever you wish to write about. Writing is simple because you can do it anywhere, it doesn’t cost anything, and it teaches you things about yourself that you may not have known before you started writing. It helps you understand yourself better as well as those around you.
Writing also enhances your social skills and increases your levels of empathy and creativity. It alleviates many physical and mental illnesses and it can even allow you to feel more grateful for the things in your life. In fact, there are even journals called gratitude journals and people write in them every day, listing the people and the things that make them thankful.
When you participate in therapeutic writing, a lot of good things happen but it isn’t just people experiencing some type of physical or emotional trauma who benefit from this type of writing. Journaling and free writing, among other writing exercises, are great ways to help keep your attitude right and your emotional health at its best.
If you want to get the most out of your therapeutic writing experience, you should know that this type of writing can:
- Rewire your brain so that you can change both your thoughts and your actions
- Build up your self-confidence and your self-esteem
- Free up mental space in your brain, leaving more room for the important stuff
- Help you do better at your place of employment by resulting in fewer sick days and more productivity on the job
Therapeutic writing is very personalized and is different from one individual to another but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t effective. Indeed, therapeutic writing is very effective and it does a lot of good for a lot of different people.
Gratitude journals are kept by all kinds of people, including those who wish to improve their overall attitude towards life. Much as with other types of writing, keeping a gratitude journal requires no real rules. All you have to do is write in it every day and include all of the things that you’re grateful for and that you appreciate.
When you write in your gratitude journal, make sure that you:
- Describe how your life would be different if you didn’t have the things you are grateful for
- Include both gratitude journaling and some type of expressive writing for the best effect
- Don’t just make a list but go into detail about why you are grateful for those things or people
- Write about anything that happened unexpectedly that you now appreciate
- Above all else, don’t forget to write about the people who you are the most grateful for
When it comes to gratitude journals, writing about the people you are appreciate of is the most effective form of writing. You don’t even have to write in a gratitude journal every day; in fact, two or three times a week is enough to do the job. It is important, however, to get very personal in your gratitude journal because this is the way that it works best.
Some additional tips for keeping a gratitude journal include:
- Write at least once a week for 10-15 minutes each time for at least two weeks to get started.
- Be very specific and detailed in all of your writing.
- Consider the things and people you’re grateful for as “gifts.”
- If you start writing about the same people or things, shift into a different gear and focus on other people or things.
- Don’t overdo it. This is not the type of journal that you want to write in every day.
Again, there are no real rules when you’re writing in a gratitude journal. Just start with what feels best and go from there.
Not Just for People Experiencing Trauma
Naturally, people experiencing trauma aren’t the only ones who benefit from writing in a therapeutic manner. Everyone experiences stress in life and even keeping a standard journal can help eliminate some of it. Whether you express your feelings in a journal or in your story-telling, writing is very beneficial for a number of reasons. Below are just a few of them.
- When you put your feelings into words, it makes you feel better in every way.
- You can remember things better, which helps you feel more organized and structured.
- You can see your self-growth month after month, year after year.
- It can help you understand life in general a lot better.
- You become much smarter.
Journaling and writing bring clarity to your life and help you get in touch with that side of your personality that needs work. You can track your progress in the healing or growth process and it allows you to recognize the highs and lows in your emotions. In addition, if you have any feelings lurking in your subconscious, they can come out a lot more quickly when you write down all of them.
Writing about your feelings helps get things off your chest and it feels good to release those negative or stressful feelings. Think about it; paper and pen cannot judge you or think that what you’re writing is stupid so you can write whatever you want and feel much better about it afterwards. It is also a miracle worker when you have private thoughts that you feel you cannot share with anyone else because you can always share those thoughts with a journal or notebook!
Getting Started When You’re Interested in Writing
All writing is therapeutic but if you’ve never written in a journal or notebook before and you’d like to start, there is no need to panic. It really is very simple, especially because there are no hard-and-fast rules. You’ve already wondered, how can writing be therapeutic to people?, and now it’s your turn to find out how to get started with this type of writing.
To get started with your writing, just keep in mind the following tips and suggestions:
- Time yourself, at least at first. Try not to write more than 10 minutes a day until you get more used to it.
- Try writing on paper instead of on your computer. When writing things down — literally — you’ll be more creative and you’ll think of more things to write about.
- Buy a great-looking journal. It doesn’t have to be leather-bound and expensive but make sure that it meets your fancy and enables you to look forward to writing in it each day.
- Don’t make it too organized. Try making it random. Just write about whatever comes to your mind so that it’s inconsistently interesting.
- Don’t worry if the page has too much space on it. You’re not going to fill up an entire page every single day.
- You don’t have to be too neat or organized. If you’re sloppy or messy with the pages, that’s okay!
- Add additional items to your journal, such as souvenirs, newspaper clippings, etc.
- Don’t be shy about getting started. If you’re nervous, that’s all right, but jump right in anyway and start writing.
You can also get started by keeping in mind the KISS method; in other words, keep it simple! Your journal is not a book or newspaper article. It is something that only you will ever read so it doesn’t have to be perfect. And, speaking of this topic, always keep your journal private. Never let anyone read anything that’s in there. You can also use a variety of writing prompts to help get you started and most of these prompts can be found online.
If you can, try to write in the same physical location every time you write — for example, at your desk or in your favorite chair. You can also experiment with many different types of journals. Although it was suggested earlier to use pen and paper for your journal, there are also other types of journals that you can use. You just have to find the one that works best for you. These include:
- Regular notebooks, either college-ruled or standard
- Regular journals that are specifically made for this purpose
- Blogs, which are a great way to vent and share your thoughts at the same time
- Online journals and applications
If you like, you can get even more creative and use a scrapbook, a sketchpad, even a tablet, or any other non-traditional medium for writing in because you have to choose the method that you think will work best for your needs.
Some Final Thoughts
Once you’ve answered the questions, how can writing be therapeutic?, the rest of the steps are simple. Writing either to recover from trauma or to help you improve both physically and emotionally is always a beneficial thing to do and the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll start getting the positive results you want.