Writing can take on many forms and do many things for people. It can be a fascinating or soothing hobby, a career, a passion, a job. But writing can have a more important role. Writing can be a coping strategy that can assist in stress relief, can increase feelings of positivity, can help manage anxiety, and can help to process trauma. Writing can be a form of therapy. Writing may do this in the following ways:
- It can help you honor yourself and your life story.
Vocalizing your story can be hard. Putting words to your pain can be excruciating. Putting your inner words and dialogue onto paper can be an effective alternative to speaking your story out loud. Moreover, it can provide emotional release and can validate your experience.
- It provides a way to share your story with others.
Some stories are traumatic. Some stories are hopeful. Some stories are either, or and both. Sharing your story for others to read can provide normalization to others – that is, it can let others know that other people share similar pain. This, in turn, can provide positive benefits for the writer. Writing can provide a loud voice in order to share experiences.
- Writing can let unconscious material become conscious.
Writing out a traumatic event can help process trauma with the help of a professional therapist. Often we cope with stressful or traumatic things by compartmentalizing. It is as if our brain contains different compartments in which we can put different memories and emotions in an attempt to store them away for later. Some memories and emotions can end up in our unconscious. Writing whatever flows out of your mind, called free association, is a way to tap into what may be stored within the unconscious mind.
- Writing has a calming effect on the brain.
Writing, particularly by hand, stimulates the same areas of the brain that meditation does. It engages the brain’s motor areas and memory pathways, and forces the mind to slow down while the hand catches up. This has the potential to allow more space for learning and memory integration.
Moreover, writing in cursive has further benefits. Handwriting is rhythmic and provides sensory soothing to the brain, which can decrease a negative emotional experience. It integrates sensation, movement control, cognition, and causes a calming slow-down effect.
- Writing can inspire hope.
Writing your future story can instill hope, create soothing imagery within your mind, and produce calm. It can also help you to set goals and perhaps start to plan a way to work towards the goals.
- It can help heal pain from relationships.
Writing apology and forgiveness letters can help right wrongs. Further, penning undelivered letters to those who have hurt us can assist with healing the hurt without ever having to make contact with that person.
There are many ways that you can write. Here are some practical suggestions:
- Get a notebook and start a journal.
- Create a blog and type out your story.
- Write letters to your future or past self.
Remember, you are the author of your life-book. Every day can be a blank page on which to record, explore, hope, uplift, remember, and design. Writing regularly can restore, rebuild, and heal.
Erin Newman is a therapist by day, and a writer by night. She is also a parent, student, advocate, artist, and teacher.