Art can take many forms, all of which are therapeutic in so many ways. For me, something that makes you happy and keeps you from thinking about your problems certainly affects your mental health positively. Writing, for example, is therapy for the mind and soul. It is a powerful weapon that enables one to release negativity through the words that he jots down. It allows one to face his challenges while instilling some coping skills to solve these challenges.
“Moving your worries from your head to paper is a great stress reducer,” says Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist. “Part of the stress is worrying that you’ll forget what you’re worried about. Writing it out helps you forget momentarily, he said. It also can improve your sleep,” he adds.
Read on and understand how writing therapy works and what it does for us.
What is the concept behind writing therapy? It is simply to write what you feel and what you think about things with no hesitation and no prejudice. You don’t have to determine whether it’s appropriate or not, polite or rude. Don’t be ashamed or scared either. Don’t set rules for yourself. Just go ahead and sit, stand, or lie on your belly and get your pen and paper.
The important concept to remember is to write using your heart, not your mind.
Contrary to what some people think, there is quite a bit of difference between writing therapy and journaling. When you say journaling, your goal is to effectively document events and the emotions associated with these events. You can also use journaling the same way as writing therapy but it is not limited only to the therapy itself.
On the other hand, when you write for the purpose of therapy, the focus is on the trauma or the reason for the pain that you feel. You write about why you are hurt. Like journaling, writing therapy is also primarily for you and your satisfaction. It doesn’t need to be validated by others – even by you. You actually don’t have to read what you write, as its purpose is only to feel relieved and lighter. You don’t have to worry so much about grammar, sentence structure, and errors, among others.
“It’s about being the witness to ourselves and for ourselves. We can hold the larger context together by having a simultaneous perspective of being in the moment, being the wise self or observing ego, and knowing that you have the strength and resilience to get through it. It’s the concrete manifestation, the ink on paper or pixels on screen, which provides a tangible reality that we can relate and come back to.” – Kathleen Adams, LPC.
Ways To Write Therapeutically
There are two ways to make writing a therapeutic art form. The first is the typical description of writing therapy, and the second one is based on personal experience.
- Don’t Force It. You know you want to write about the pain and suffering, but you can’t find the words or you don’t feel like writing yet. You don’t need to force yourself to write something. You can wait until your pen finds the paper but you just have to keep trying. Today might not be the day, but tomorrow might. While you’re waiting, you’ll also grow stronger, more patient, and apparently more resilient.
- Write Now. This second one I learned through my many attempts of resolving my problems through writing therapy. I did the first suggestion and it did work but the process was slow for me. When I encouraged myself to write anything and everything I felt that day, despite the fact that I didn’t want to write because I couldn’t confront the truth with my words, I inserted some phrases that used the third person. I used ‘she’ and ‘her’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘me.’ This really helped me a lot.
Before we move on, let me just remind you that one doesn’t have to be a great writer or to have a lengthy writing experience. Just let yourself be guided by your emotions, what you’ve been through, and practically anything you want to put down on paper.
Benefits – What It Does
- Improves Emotional Health. Just as you want to take care of your physical health, you should also do well to protect your emotional health. Writing therapy prevents you from bottling your emotions and keeping you depressed and frustrated because you have not released the negativity. Writing down your pain reduces your sadness and softens your heart. You will grow more hope in you and will soon look forward to better days.
According to Cynthia McKay, a psychotherapist, “Expressing yourself in a journal can bring your thoughts and feelings to the surface. Many people are surprised by what they write,” she says. “You may discover you’re worried about something you didn’t know was upsetting you until you wrote it down.”
- Promotes Discipline. Committing to doing therapeutic writing daily for a mere 15 to 20 minutes establishes some kind of routine that will help you instill discipline and avoid procrastination. If you think of it as a task and responsibility, you will initially be forced to get up and write what you can without feeling it. But after a few days, you’ll realize how much it has helped you and then you’ll make it a habit to release everything that’s in your heart and mind before even starting your day.
- Be Honest But Try To Be Positive. Yes, writing therapy somehow requires you to be honest about what you put on paper, because after all, it’s about how you feel, right? What I mean is, you don’t have to literally write everything you feel the negative way. Instead of saying, “I don’t know how long I can stand the pain,” you can write, “I know I’m in pain right now, but I am hopeful that things will be all right.” You don’t have to write, “This day just sucks,” although it’s how you honestly feel. Rather, you can say, “Well, there are days worst than this.”
I have tried different kinds of art for therapeutic purposes, and I’d say that writing therapy has indeed helped me move on. It has opened my eyes to my strengths and weakness, and to the fact that no one is spared from negativity. But know that whoever you are, you are armed with a lot of weapons, and among the strongest ones that will save you might just be a pen and a paper!