Expressive and Emotional Writing

by Merja Willock on February 11, 2012

in Mood + Self-Care

Writing has always been the most therapeutic form of self-expression for me in addition to music and art. I began to keep a journal and numerous notebooks as soon as I learnt to write and getting my thoughts heard has always been the easiest by writing. I remember that when I was in elementary school we exchanged letters with my best friends even though we saw each other every day. Those letters were always filled with ridiculous questions like what would you do if this and that happened. I still have all those letters, and it’s great fun to go over them, laughing so hard that it brings tears to my eyes.

Expressive and Emotional Writing

In an era where email has replaced those old fashioned letters I feel that something profound has been taken away. Sure it’s a convenient way to keep in touch with your friends who live all around the world and get feedback as soon as you need it. Sometimes I still miss those small little things like the excitement that I experienced when I was waiting a letter from my sister who lived abroad when I was little. Email also takes away all the personality that can be accomplished only with your own handwriting. How about children nowadays, if they start to write with a computer what happens to their handwriting skills? As much as possible I still write by hand, it connects me to the process in totally different way.

Writing makes it possible to completely empty my mind, document my thoughts: both highs and lows, capture moments in time, save inspiration for later, come up with new ideas, create something that lasts longer than I live, provoke opposing views and discussion, share thoughts, fears and experiences with others, connect with my inner self and express my feelings thus acting like a therapeutic tool and offering perspective.

Expressive writing has also been shown to have numerous health benefits:

People who have written about emotional and traumatic events have had improvement in physical and physiological health when compared to people who wrote about neutral topics. According to James Bennebaker’s studies benefits included less depression and anxiety and increased positivity.

Other benefits have included:

  • Improvement in immune system function
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improvement in lung and liver function
  • Improvement in working memory
  • Altering in social and linguistic behavior

Why does it work?

If you hold upsetting memories and feelings in your body without expressing them your sympathetic nervous system is on. This causes your organs to work overtime and your body holds tension. When you are able to get your feelings into words your body relaxes, your feelings make more sense and it is easier to shift your perspective and move forward.

Importance of asking questions:

Instead of ruminating with those negative thoughts over and over again you need to explore them. According to psychologists Linda Cameron and Greg Nicholls asking questions and finding alternative ways to look problems helps us to feel better.

Some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What is actually underneath these feelings
  • Why something bothers you so much
  • What can you do to make you feel better
  • What have you learned from that experience

Every negative event has it’s blessing too.

“Think of a situation that, when you first encountered it, appeared to be a big problem but ultimately turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
– Dr. John F. Demartini

If you can’t stop worrying you can decide to have a certain amount of time to write everything down. Then burn the paper and just let go.

How to write?

  • It would be beneficial to write twenty minutes at a time, preferably three to four consecutive days. Then it will become a habit that you miss if you have break
  • Express your deepest thoughts and emotions openly, everything needs to be seen only by you, your journal doesn’t judge you
  • Do not worry about grammar or any spelling mistakes

Expressive writing can also be positive. I have to say that I find that more beneficial in some situations. Thoughts become things and if I spend too much time going over the old traumas I easily start to ruminate with those thoughts all over again and get back to that dark place. As soon as I have shed those memories I need to move forward. A good way is to start to appreciate everyday beauty more by creating love lists, writing a gratitude and appreciation journal and thinking about the future through visualization writing. That helps me realize what is really important.

Here you can read why we write essays by TV and Film writers and other people.

Why do you write and what does it mean for you?

Emotional and physical health benefits of writing
Dr. Darlene Mininni – The Emotional Toolkit

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