How Writing Affects Mental Health
Writing isn't just a fun hobby or creative pastime anymore. It's actually beneficial to your mental health! Keep reading to find out how writing impacts our mental health and state of mind.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever stumbled across a blog, Instagram, or Pinterest post that says, “Journal Prompts for Mental Health.” Bonus points if you realized I wrote a blog post on journal prompts for mental health and self-development several months ago.
It seems to be common knowledge now that writing is a great tool for navigating challenging mental health problems. Getting your struggles down on paper and taking a look at them can help you figure out what to do next.
Writing is also a great way to relieve feelings of overwhelm. Have you heard of the term, “brain dump”? I love this term. Quite simply put, it’s the act of dumping the contents of your brain (not literally-please leave your brain inside your skull) onto paper. When you have a million thoughts, a million things you feel like you need to do, and your head is spinning; do a brain dump. Write it all down and sort through it later. This way, you won’t forget anything because you just wrote it down, and you can make a solid plan to tackle those tasks when you’re no longer feeling overwhelmed.
There are a few other ways that writing can positively affect mental health. Whether you choose to do a brain dump, a guided journal prompt session, or just write whatever comes to your mind; writing can affect positive change in your mental health.
Keep reading to learn how writing can do magical things for your mental state!
Lowers Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety
Like I mentioned before, writing can help you navigate tricky situations that may be causing you stress and anxiety. Naturally, as you work through these situations and get a handle on them through writing, you may lower your symptoms of stress and anxiety overall.
A study was done by APA that actually found that writing not only helped alleviate the feelings of stress and helped in working through negative experiences but also helped with working memory.
It makes sense that writing has a positive influence on our stress levels. Using the example of the “brain dump” further, how many times have you had so much going on in your head that you used the expression, “I can’t think straight!” When you have a lot on your plate, put it down on paper. Make an action plan to knock out whatever is stressing you out and let it go.
Sometimes, all it takes is just getting it out. Get it out of your system and get it on paper.
Moving down the road of emotions (we’ve already covered stress, anxiety, and overwhelm) let’s talk about how writing can elevate your mood.
When writing about a positive feeling or experience, it’s likely your brain and body will respond by feeling the way you felt during the experience you’re writing about. For example, If you’re writing about a memory you have from a sunny beach vacation, your brain will probably start creating those images in your mind and try to relive the experience. Sometimes, you may even get a little surge of serotonin or dopamine thinking about something that makes you happy.
If you love Harry Potter as much as I do, you’ll appreciate this analogy. When Harry has to cast a Patronus charm, he has to think of an incredibly happy memory to conjure it. The product of that Patronus charm is a bright, shining light that radiates out into the surrounding area. Writing is a lot like casting a Patronus charm; specifically writing with the intent of improving your mood. You have to think and write out, in great detail sometimes, how wonderful a particular memory or experience is for you.
With any luck, you’ll cast your own version of a Patronus through writing and be able to enjoy the good mood that’s sure to follow. Worth noting, Harry Potter often ate chocolate after casting a Patronus because of the toll the dementors took on his energy. Never a bad idea to finish up a writing session with some chocolate!
It’s a Healing Experience
I’ve always had an easier time writing than speaking. I’ve often found that it’s easier for me to not only get my point across effectively but also to have more confidence to say what I really want to say when I can write it out. Sometimes, there are things you just can’t bring yourself to say out loud.
Writing things down can be a great way to release an experience and give it shape and form in the letters, sentences, paragraphs, or pages you write. When going through a difficult time, I’ve found I have an easier time letting go of something or accepting something once I’ve written it down. Once the problem, feeling, or experience is written down, it’s taken on a physical form and feels more real. I can deal with a real physical problem better than I can a problem that’s just bouncing around in my head.
You can take this a step further and crumple up, rip, or burn the paper you just wrote your deepest, darkest feelings onto. If you’re trying to purge a particularly nasty memory, recent experience, or emotion, physically destroying the words can help you let go in a physical way. This physical destruction of the words may entice your mind to do the same and let go of the painful emotions you’re processing.
My favorite part about writing, contrary to what any English teacher has ever told me, is that writing doesn’t have rules. Sure, there are basic grammar and spelling rules that apply but when it comes to the actual act of writing; do it however you want! Write a poem, write a short story, write from the ending page to the beginning, write in a circular shape. Seriously, write however you want! They’re your words, you’re creating them, and when they’re just for you, who cares?! As long as you feel better afterwards; that’s the point.
You don’t have to be a writer in any professional capacity to use it to better your life either. Writing is one of the many art forms that can be done by almost anyone. There’s power and weight in words, so use them to your advantage to create a happier, healthier state of mind.