Writing to Heal: Build Your Structures & Support System

Listen: Writing to Heal. Build Your Structures & Support System

Transcript: Last week, we learnt about the similarities and differences between writing to heal as a guided journey, and keeping a diary. We learnt that writing to heal is more purposeful and growth-oriented. We learnt that it leads with a structure and direction to your expressive writing.

We also learnt about Pennebaker and Smyth, who led excellent studies that educated us on the positive effects on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing from writing to heal.

And of course, I shared about my favourite emotional benefit in writing to heal as a guided journey is how it enables personal empowerment. If you missed the previous two episodes, I’d love for you to catch up on them. And if you’re joining us today, hi, my name is Ann Thomas, and you’re here with me on writing to heal. I am the founder of Revel, which comprises a small group of people who are incredibly passionate about nourishing minds. If you have any questions or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach me via email hi@revel.sg, and you’ll also find me on Instagram. My handle’s @annmthomas.


I’m an 80s kid, a product of babyboomers. Baby Boomers are known to be achievement-oriented, dedicated, and career-focused. Born during the post World War II baby boom, they rejected and redefined past traditions. Baby Boomers are confident, independent, and self-reliant. So it goes without, I grow up in a very goal-oriented, supportive and structured environment. So if you’ve had a similar upbringing to mine, you’d understand when I say that for writing to heal to be effective, you’d need structures and supports to be in place. This will result in a more efficient and effective use of the process. And that’s what we’re discussing today. If structures make you cringe, I’ll teach you ways you can gently ease yourself into it.

To share another personal story, embarrassing confession time: Back in the early 90s, I read my sister’s diary. I also that my mom was an avid reader of the diary. So, yea, this taught me to leave my journal behind at school instead of bringing it home. This really embarrassing realisation helps me understand why not everyone might be open to the idea of journaling. You might feel it is an invasion of privacy or that someone might find it and read it. Or perhaps you just really hate writing. Or maybe, if you’re someone who has had negative experiences with journaling before, you may not feel good about it now.

Now, when I meet Revel‘s visitors in-store, and we get into a conversation about journaling, especially if the person is uncomfortable about expressive writing, here are some typical questions I’d ask to help me better understand how I can be of assistance.

First and foremost, I’d check if they’d had previous positive/negative or neutral experiences with journaling. If that’s a yes, I’d check if they’ve had used it in a medical or professional capacity. If it was a no or they have negative feelings linked to their previous experiences, I’d ask them to share their concerns about writing to heal. And instead of diving into the benefits, I’d first ask them about their own self-conceived opinions on how they feel journaling could benefit their healthful healing.

It’s very natural to be suspicious of the process and view it as a timewaster, which makes me which this podcast was little more interactive where I’d be able to have this conversation with you instantaneously.

I don’t know about you, but for me, while scientific evidence matter, I also often feel more encouraged to start something new when I know exactly how it can help me. What I can tell you is that when you start writing consistently, you will begin to notice patterns of your thoughts and your behaviour. You will detect thoughts and behaviours you might not like about yourself, and journaling will help you address these with much more focus. It becomes a way for you to track your growth and development. Again I know this isn’t a one size fits all solution, so if you any help at all – please do reach out to us. We’re happy to share our ears, eyes and ideas.

The main tools to writing to heal as a guided journey that adds structure are, of course, your notebook and writing tools. Selecting a journal is a crucial step. When shopping for one, choose something that you find extremely attractive. It might seem materialistic, but the truth is, it’s imperative that you feel drawn to open that notebook and start writing. This rings truer if you are someone who typically prefers to write online. I say this because studies have shown that writing by hand activates more areas of the brain.

The same goes for pencils, pens, markers, paint – choose mediums that you are comfortable with and are drawn to. Make sure it feels extra special and exciting for you. After all, you are embarking on a fantastic journey that will hopefully improve your life quality.

So, how do you go about writing to heal? As I mentioned earlier, there should be guidelines and structures in place to make it as effective as possible. BUT, I also say that it’s really important you know that there is no so-called perfect method in writing to heal.

You journal with the intention to heal. You may write a few words; you may draw, paint. You may go on and on for a few pages, or just input a couple of lines. The most important thing is that you express yourself, knowing that you and only you are your audience. The first step, or perhaps the first sentence is always the hardest. As I’ve said over the past two episodes, please be kind and patient with yourself. Keep going. Just write. Trust me when I say this: In due time, it will flow naturally.

Now that you’ve got your notebook and writing tools, you’d want to create yourself an environment where you will be comfortable in and – very importantly, you wouldn’t be disturbed at. Find or create yourself some space where you can sit quietly for about 15 to 30 minutes and write out your feelings in a clear and uninterrupted setting.

Me, I prefer absolute silence, but I know people who focus better with some sort of ‘white noise’ going on if this resonates with you, great! A cafe, the library, or just your room with some music on will work brilliantly for you.

In the name of structure and creating yourself a supportive environment, here are some pointers.

Turn off the tv and put away all your gadgets. If you live in a noisy home and wish to journal at home, consider waking up earlier than the rest, or reserving some time before your bedtime to write.

And this, I’ve reinforcing since episode 1, please reserve about 5 minutes for some post-journaling reflection. Reflection time also includes you collecting yourself and your thoughts, as you might feel sad or even angry after writing about your strong emotions, so it will be beneficial for your to have a few minutes of reflections at the end of each session.

Now that we’ve got our tools and environment set for writing to heal as a guided journey, join me next week where we’ll get started on effectively using prompts and exercises to help you stay focused and learn to organise your thoughts.

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