Reading books has undoubtedly been validated to serve multiple benefits like cognitive decline, decreased stress, encouraged empathy and happiness, fending off dementia, reduced depression symptoms, etc. Needless to say, how it is also widely practiced.
However, the same is not the case with writing, despite the myriad of benefits it offers, from help in regulating feelings, emotions and thoughts, to teaching the art of expression and much more. The following article discusses multiple benefits of writing on a person’s mental well-being and why everyone must begin practicing.
The Mental Benefits Of Writing
Writing for mental health differs from writing formally with proper writing conventions like spellings, verb agreement, etc. What is known as expressive writing in psychology comes from the core, or better said, it is a written account of what we feel in mind and the heart. You may also call it journaling.
Furthermore, all this is not just theory but has loads of research and experiments to back it. A significant credit holder of which is Dr. James Pennebaker, a professor at the University of Texas.
In one of his classy experiments, four groups of healthy undergraduates were assigned to write for four consecutive days. While the three groups were to write about some stressful or traumatic events in their lives, the last group were told to write on any trivial topic.
After tracking the four groups for six months, researchers discovered that the three groups who wrote about traumatic events had fewer health center visits and better mental and physical health than the fourth group. Verbally labeling their emotions and writing about them had positively influenced their emotional experience and developed a better understanding and coping skills.
One could try writing in multiple techniques to structure thoughts and reduce anxiety and negative emotion. So, let see how it works –
Writing As An Exercise For Emotional Intelligence
Depression is often a result of unacknowledged or subsided emotions in a person. However, emotional intelligence can help you manage depression, though not without effort.
While some say that emotional intelligence is an inborn trait, many believe that it can be learned and strengthened with practice. And, as you might have guessed, writing is, in fact, one of the possible tools to exercise it.
That feeling of annoyance or sudden anger in the middle of the day without any apparent reason is something most people confront every other day. The frequency and magnitude of a particular feeling sometimes get too ingrained that people no longer distinguish it from their real nature or attempt to find a valid reason for the same.
To pause in such situations and think of all the possible reasons and incidents that might have caused one to feel a certain way, writing everything down is a great technique to improve your emotional understanding and reasoning. It will also improve your emotional intelligence and let you be aware and prepared for the next time it strikes.
Writing Helps You Practice Mindfulness
Stay mindful, live in the moment, exist here and right now are all quite common sayings surrounding depression and anxiety. But, everyone who has suffered through it and even those who did not particularly feel that way will agree that doing so is easier said than done.
Mindfulness is a practice to be preached without a doubt; however, when negative thoughts circle the mind around the clock, it is hard to stay present, even more, to calm oneself and meditate.
Well, given the same, the Cambridge University Press came forward with research that included a study on a group of people who were told to indulge in expressive writing for 15 to 30 minutes each day without restraining their emotions.
The results suggested that the mental and physical health index of people who were true to their emotions was way better than those who wrote neutrally. The study was not just about the benefits of journaling every day for 20 minutes but how the same gives you time to collect your thoughts, acknowledge them, and teach you to be present in that very moment.
Writing allows a person to take their mind off of other troubling things and prevent it from overcrowding. It helps one focus, letting their ideas flow, center, and silence inner thoughts, keeping them in the “now” and mindful.
Know What You Learned And Ward Off-Stress
It is often hard to learn what the day taught us or even process the accomplishments with everything sliding quickly. Stress from thinking about what comes next keeps building, and before you know it, there it is, a traffic jam of thoughts in your head.
Since expressive writing or journaling your daily actions and emotions is often private, it allows you to express things you usually would not say and that too in a blunt manner without any filter.
What’s more, when you write how you felt and what caused it, or even about something that impacted you throughout the day’s activity, you are giving yourself time to understand, perceive and learn from it. The same allows you to reinforce positive actions in your life and get better with each experience.
Needless to say how it also serves as a way to vent your anger and frustration, which otherwise would have turned bigger by day.
The Physical Benefits Of Writing
If you think the benefit of writing is limited to mental health, you are in for a surprise, as it can also help you get better physically.
Research shows that writing about stress, emotions, and thoughts can boost the immune functioning of people, especially those suffering from a particular disease. However, writing is not effective if it is just registering the events, as attempts to comprehend and contextualize it must be made to reap the benefits.
How To Start Writing?
Make out time to write – While it is undoubtedly hard to find time to write, especially for someone who is not in its habit, trying is the key. Don’t force yourself to write every day, instead aim for a minimum of 15 minutes four times a week and go with it.
Find the perfect spot – To have a quiet place to yourself when expressive writing is as essential as any other step. Find a place that gives you a sense of comfort and serenity.
Pick your best method – The idea of journaling is often linked with a leather pad and an ink pen, but that’s not it. Write as you see fit, whether on your computer or just as a memo on the phone, as long as you feel comfortable with it.
Don’t edit it out – The entire purpose of expressive writing is that it must not be filtered to any extent. Therefore, when writing, do not edit, like redirecting yourself and your emotions to meet a particular criterion.
Do not reread what you wrote right away – While it is undoubtedly a good idea to go back to what you wrote previously, avoid doing it just after you made an entry, as it may further influence your thoughts and feelings.
Writing has therapeutic effects similar to the medication one might take for depression and anxiety. And that is why one must write every day to improve their quality of life and see visible results.
Even if one does not experience any mental illness, writing is still a great way to improve your mood and overall ability to handle different emotions and must. It brings peace to a mentally and emotionally exhausted mind and helps in structuring thoughts to bring mental peace. Happy Scrolling!