When was the last time you sat down to write something that had nothing to do with work or was not an Instagram photo caption? Can you remember the last time you wrote about how something has happened to you? It would be good if the answer to all this was: as late yesterday, and we will tell you why.
According to experts, writing suits us all, not only because it allows us to unleash our creativity, but also because it also has a barbarity of benefits, both psychological and physical, that can improve our day to day.
But, in order to see improvements in these areas, we have to take the writing one step further, and go from writing in a newspaper, as we did as children, to practice therapeutic writing. However, we cannot expect this to be the solution to all our problems, it is more a "low cost" solution, but it is better accompanied by professional therapy.
In any case it works wonderfully alone, so that's why we present it to you and we are going to give you tips to cultivate this healthy habit.
What is therapeutic writing?
First, as we have said, it is crucial to differentiate between writing in a newspaper and practicing therapeutic writing. There are a couple of key features that distinguish these two writing methods.
When you write in a newspaper, or in a journal, you usually don't have a goal in mind, it's much freer, and a bit more chaotic. However, when you intend to start a therapeutic writing notebook you have to follow guidelines and statements, well chosen by yourself, or dictated by a professional therapist as part of your therapy.
Also, when you practice this type of writing, it is imperative that you reflect, interact, and analyze the things you write about, and why you write them. It is all part of the process.
What is good about it?
Have you ever felt stressed, or anxious? And have you ever been constantly thinking about a person or event to the point that you feel you can't get them out of your head? Well, this is why therapeutic writing is good. It relaxes you, calms you down, and helps you understand your feelings in relation to a person or event, which never hurts.
In addition, there are studies that show that people who have suffered a traumatic event, by writing about this experience 15 minutes a day, get better health outcomes than those who do not write.
There are even studies that have found a correlation between physical health and therapeutic writing. In these investigations, patients who write about their feelings and traumatic events show more signs of recovery and healing of their wounds than those who just wrote about their day to day.
Similarly, according to research published in the psychology journal "Advances in psychiatric treatments", therapeutic writing also helps people suffering from anxiety, depression, and OCD, among others.
How do I start? Essentials
First, choose the method you want. We may talk about writing in a notebook, but no matter what you choose, as long as it is comfortable and motivates you to write (you can even use an online journal).
Then, don't worry if you think you don't write well, this is not important. What counts is that you are able to express yourself in a way that, in your opinion, is consistent and easy to understand. So try not to marty yourself, as much as possible.
Nor stress if one day you are only able to write 4 words, because surely some other day you will want to be writing for hours. It is better that you write every day even if it is as little as possible that you stress and think that you have to at least fill a face of the notebook, and by the burden do not write again after that.
Similarly, a good method to ensure this is to decide beforehand when and where you are going to write, so you create a routine that you will get used to after a few weeks. In addition, if possible, you can also choose a minimum amount of time that you have to write, for example, put that you have to write at least 5 minutes a day. It is a small amount of time that does not intimidate, and precisely because of this you will not be lazy to start writing, and you will discover that many times, you spend more than double the time writing.
Another essential tip for therapeutic writing is that you have to write completely honestly. That is, do not try to hide anything about yourself, after all, the objective of this exercise is to provide you with a space where you can be 100%, so it makes no sense to censor your thoughts or feelings when writing. That is why it is also crucial that you have found a place where you can write without fear of someone else reading you. If you think there is a possibility that someone will find your notebook, it is much less likely to lower your defenses completely, which will prevent you from benefiting from this practice in its entirety.
Attack the blank page
We have compiled some statements from different sources that can be of help when you sit down and have to face the dreaded blank page.
The psychologist Margarita Tartakovsky recommends us a few exercises from which we have selected 14:
- If I could talk to my teenage self I would tell him ...
- Two moments I will never forget are ... Describe them in detail, and what makes them unforgettable
- Make a list of 30 things that make you smile
- Write about a moment from the point of view of your body. Making love, having breakfast, having a fight, an experience of your own or one that you can imagine for your character. It omits thoughts and emotions, and transmits all the information through the body and the senses. (This exercise has been borrowed by Tartakovsky by author Barbara Abercrombie and her book Kicking In the Wall)
- Make a list of the people in your life who always support you and you fully trust. (Then find the time to meet them.)
- I would like others to know this about me ...
- Write a way you have helped a friend recently. Then describe how you can do the same for you.
- What do you like about life?
- What is something that always makes you cry? (As Paulo Coelho says, “Tears are words that are about to be written”)
- Write about your first love, as if it is a person, a place, or a thing.
- Write a list of questions for which you need urgent answers. (Also from Abercrombie)
- Make a list of everything you would like to say no
- Make a list of everything you would like to say yes.
- Write the words you need to hear.
Another method that can be very useful is to make a stream of consciousness. This is an exercise that began to be used with the surrealist movement, and basically aspires to unleash your subconscious as you write. To do this you have to write without stopping for a period of time (you can determine it at the beginning and then leave it at random), in which you cannot think about what you are going to write. You cannot correct spelling mistakes, nor can you reread what you have written, you have to follow. If you get stuck there are some tricks, such as starting the next sentence with a word that begins with the last letter of the last word you have written. That is, let's say that the last word you have written is "stamina", the next word will have to be something that starts with "e", like "elephant".
Reading this kind of thing after writing them is always interesting, and can tell you a lot about yourself, and the state in which you are.
On the other hand, another exercise that is also worth investigating, as sources like Mbgmindfulness suggest, is to write a letter to a loved one or to someone we have harmed in the past. Write this letter, telling them everything you would like to tell them, and keep it. You don't have to send it, and in this way you will also be completely honest with yourself and how you feel towards them.
Finally, as recommended in Psychcentral, Mbgmindfulness, and Positive Psychology, writing poetry can also help you get in touch with your feelings. It is not necessary that you become obsessed with the metric, nor the rhyme, nor that you make sonnets. This is a style that allows you to be ambiguous, or as specific as you want, so explore it while exploring yourself.