Listen: Can Writing Help Improve Your Mental Health?

Listen: Can Writing Help Improve Your Mental Health?

Transcript: Have you wondered if writing can improve your mental health? Or how does one process trauma through writing? Expressive writing – when done correctly, helps strengthen your brain. And that my friends, is mindblowing.

Welcome to writing to heal. Over the next seven weeks, we will be exploring, learning and empowering ourselves with easily accessible and applicable techniques together with the scientific studies supporting the notion that expressive writing heals.

My name is Ann Thomas, and I am the founder of Revel. Revel comprises of a small group of people who are incredibly passionate about nourishing minds. We work mostly from our home-based studios and offices scattered across our beautiful island home, Singapore. And at the heart of the CBD, a stone’s throw away from the lush Fort Canning Park sits our tiny and cosy retail space. Here, surrounded by inspiration by the blends of nature and modern-living, we work our magic and meet magical people just like you who inspired us to host this podcast.

If you’re a personal acquaintance/friend/family, thank you so much for tuning in. I’ve always been a quiet person, so this is possibly the most you’ve ever heard me speak. If you’re a professional acquaintance, thank you too, so much, for tuning in.

For the next 7 weeks or so, we’ll be exploring the what, the why and the how, to expressive writing. In your journey through writing to heal, please be patient with yourself. Be kind. Be understanding. Especially if you are working through trauma, spend sufficient time understanding each week’s takeaway before applying it to your life. Also, don’t overlook the invaluable benefits of reflections either. After each activity – reflect. See what worked, and what didn’t. What surprised you? What bored you? What bothered you? Why? Can you change that? Do you want to change that?

I would encourage you to follow the episodes’ sequence, but please feel free to jump back and forth – anything that rocks your boat as long as it inspires you to get started! There is no time limit to personal growth, so if you feel you need to take a break, that’s perfectly fine too.

Please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions, concerns or suggestions. You can reach me via email, you’ll also find me on Instagram. My handle’s @annmthomas

I hope you enjoy this series, and I wish you every success in your journey through journaling to heal.

Maya Angelou, the American civil rights activist and poet, was an avid writer who once said: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

She was so on-point there.

Writing about your feelings – whether you are managing depression or anxiety, or just going through a rough patch, perhaps you’re feeling gloomy – Writing about your feelings can be life-changing to both your physical and emotional health. Over the next few weeks, I will share references to scientific studies that have proven these true. But here’s a simple explanation for now. When you freely express yourself without allowing shame, pride or fear to influence you, you are enabling yourself to figure out the reasons behind your emotions. Here is where your simple notebook evolves and becomes a therapeutic tool that heals, empowers and nurtures your personal growth.

Your writing now serves as an avenue for you to discover and understand your perceptions of your personal experiences and interactions with life. Through your journaling, you decipher what these exchanges tell you about yourself, your emotions and your feelings. You begin to see things beyond their surface when you let go of things holding you back such fear, pride, and so on and so forth.

Before we get into the techniques and methods, I wish to discuss how life coaches and counsellors can use therapeutic journaling with their clients. Typically employed as a supplementary tool, professionals such as psychotherapists and counsellors utilise therapeutic journaling to improve mood and memory for their clients. Life coaches and counsellors can also use this method to help their clients build confidence, discover gratitude, and, most importantly, overcome negative experiences.

Journaling is a beautiful resource of wellbeing, and therefore I hope that by the end of this series, you will come to realise and experience the fantastic benefits of using your journal as a therapy tool. And if you are a life coach who is keen on using journal therapy as part of your practice, I’d be most glad to assist you in getting started.

Journalers are known for their super expensive notebooks and stationery props. Very often, these are seasoned journalers who take pride in their journey through expressive writing. They understand the value of this activity and are keen on investing in quality tools. But if you are looking to get started and aren’t keen on financially investing in journaling, please understand that all you need is a paper pad and a pencil. This low-cost, easily accessible activity is hugely therapeutic, and when committed to regularly, it will become one of the most empowering habits you will ever form. This belief is at the heart of everything we’re doing through this podcast. So grab yourself some paper and a pencil or a pen. We’re just getting started.

While most people I speak to acknowledge the benefits of keeping a diary and have reported feeling confident about how journaling enhances their wellbeing, I think it’s time to address the greater good in journaling. By writing to heal, we are taking actionable steps which transform your journal into something substantially more than just being a diary.

It is a form of writing which supports the expression of our feelings. I know many of us believe that we express and share our feelings regularly. Some of us use our diaries, some of us do it over regular conversations with our trusted few, those with faith send prayers – but the truth is there are many of us – including some from the groups I just mentioned – who often suppress the most painful feelings. We deny ourselves the opportunity to fully process them. Occasionally it’s because we feel the obligation to stay emotionally strong, to be a pillar for our parents, our children, other loved ones dependent on us. Or sometimes we can’t process it because we’ve allowed the negative experience to become the central focus of our life.

This is where the science of writing to heal steps in. You see, when we strive to find the best words to express our feelings and emotions linked to a particular event, we’re putting the rational left hemisphere of our brain to use. When doing so, the right side – the more creative side is left to tinker with our thoughts arising from our writing. This act enables the right side to serve creatively, and with practice, you’ll find yourself streaming our ideas and images that you weren’t necessarily expecting. This explains why very often we find seasoned journalers smoothly flowing through their creative journaling process. The more we write, we loosen the reigns of our negative feelings over us. We gain greater clarity and understanding of the events in our life, and we start seeing adverse events as what they are – events in our whole life. They neither dictate nor define our life.

If you find yourself nodding along to somethings shared over this episode, I hope you’ll join me next week where I will address the physical benefits of writing to heal. If you disagree – with valid reasons, I’d love to hear from you.

Some of the world’s most celebrated writers have employed the written word to dealing with their own personal battles. Join me next week studies conducted over the last decades that undeniably prove that writing does heal.