top of page

Writing Therapy to Heal

by Luz Dayrit, PT, DPT

When our mind is clogged with negative thoughts, it is harder to concentrate. These anxious thoughts start with one thought then it will spiral to another negative thought and before we know it, we have lost ourselves entirely in our thoughts. It comes without a warning.

Sometimes, it is innocent at first, but it has the power to affect our mood and overall health negatively. Being in the middle of a thought spiral is unsettling and can affect our ability to think greatly. Nowadays, where we are experiencing a pandemic and a nationwide social unrest, the state of our mental health might not be at its best. We might not be as motivated like we used to, or we might be more angry and anxious than usual. Although now is the time to verbalized our opinions and feelings, we are still allowed to take time in our day to have a mental break. Today, where we are mostly scared and confused, experts suggest that we should try journaling. Journaling is the act of writing down our thoughts and feelings about our life experiences in a thought journal or diary. This definition may not be enough to convince you of its effectiveness, but many scientific studies about it might persuade you to think otherwise.

Studies show that journaling can boost memory, mindfulness, and communication skills. It is proves to improve cognitive functioning, strengthen immune system response and prevent many negative effects of stress. Other studies show that journaling can also decrease symptoms of asthma, arthritis and other health conditions. In addition, it can help you to have better sleep. If this is not enough to convince you, a study from New Zealand says that journaling has the ability to heal personal wounds faster. People try journaling for various reasons, so what they get out of journaling might not be the same with everybody. Although everybody’s journaling experience might be different, usually, people try it for its ability to give them a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings. In other words, most people try journaling for its ability to improve self-knowledge.

Julia Cameron, the author of the book “The Artist’s Way”, describes journaling, as “brain drain” which she said is where we should expel “all that angry, petty, whiny stuff”. Journaling is where we can release all of the pent-up emotions and thoughts that have been building in our every days. Whether it may be good, bad, or in-between, journaling allows us to have an outlet for everything that is going on in our lives. Putting these thoughts and emotions on paper gives us the chance to make sense of the events in our days and question the actions and emotions we felt with the events that have transpired. It helps us to process these events and sit with everything that is happening. As a result, journaling gives us a better understanding of ourselves by exploring the events that made us react or tick. At the same time, it helps us to organize our values and beliefs that we should keep. In a way, journaling can become our guide when we do not know what to do with our innermost thoughts and feelings. It gives us the space to acknowledge and understand these thoughts and emotions. Moreover, it gives us a door to find possible solutions to our problems.

The same way that people try journaling for different reasons, the way they do it can also be different. There is no one way to do it. There is no format or order that should be followed, and it can be done on paper or on a computer. Some people write in accordance with the flow of their thoughts. Others, like what experts suggest, write their thoughts in detail. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the way you want your thought diary to look like is entirely up to yours. It does not have to be perfect or strict. A thought diary is a map of a person’s soul. It is personal. Therefore, you can write it the way you want to, and not worry about anyone’s approval.

Writing in a journal does not mean only writing about the bad things in life, but it also includes writing about the good parts. Today, where we are most likely discouraged by our anxieties, we could use a little positivity occasionally. Writing about the things that we are thankful for, reminds us that there are still good things in the world. Journaling reminds us to appreciate the little things that makes us happy. At the same time, it inspires us to always look for silver linings. As a result, it humbles us and it motivates us to do more good. Journaling, also, does not need to a daily chore. Although other research says that journaling works best if done every day, journaling from time to time is also a stress relieving technique itself. In fact, Dr. James Pennebaker, a social psychologist from the University of Texas said in a New York Times article that too much journaling can be “ruminating”. So, listen to your needs and journal accordingly.

In the middle of a pandemic, a movement, and life, our mental health seems the least of our worries. Most of the time, when we feel tired and overwhelmed, our first instinct is to push through our pain, go on with our lives, and hope that these feelings will go away. Instead of thinking that these feelings are distractions, maybe we should think of them as signals to start taking care of our mental health. Regardless of how hectic or overwhelming our life is, we should not forget to take time for ourselves. Self-care does not have to be expensive or luxurious. The key is to find an activity that we would find relaxing or stress relieving. Journaling is not exactly what comes to mind when we hear the words “relaxing self-care”. Just like a car that we clean and maintain regularly, we should give the same attention to ourselves if not more. No matter what situation we are in life, we should always make our health a priority because we only have one body to live with for the rest of our lives. Taking care of ourselves will not only keep us healthy and enable us to have a long life, but it can also allow us to create more meaningful moments with our loved ones, which is what really matters in life.

Further Reading:

Barbara Markway Ph.D. How to keepu a thought Diary to combat anxiety

Elizabeth Scott,MS. Journaling is a great tool for coping with Anxiety

Hayley Phelan. “What’s all this about Journaling?

bottom of page