Have you ever felt as if you can't get out of your head? You're constantly replaying an experience over and over again, each time with a different ending or finding another reason to hate yourself? Well, the solution may be found in a simple task, writing. Writing to Heal is a method coined by James W. Pennebaker which uses expressive writing to heal the mind and body. Through expressive writing you can get all of your thoughts out and put them into context. When it comes to healing, writing is a beneficial tool for many.
The process of writing about our thoughts and emotions can bring about a release of old trauma so that we feel better able to recognize and respond to possible triggers in the future. It can also help us form clear thoughts about the things that bother us. Since expressive writing can have such a positive effect on our lives, it seems like something well worth incorporating into our routines.
Expressive writing is a valuable tool to help people express their thoughts and feelings, and gain insight into themselves. Too often we keep our emotions bottled up inside us, until it becomes too much. In a sense, we become human pressure cookers. We allow harmful thoughts, feelings and emotions to build up until one day, something triggers it and instead of just having an emotion, there is damage done.
Our days can be filled with enough inner turmoil, external pressures, distractions and noise that it is essential we carve out some time each day to do an activity that will allow us to release and bring us peace.
I’ve been a journaling enthusiast since I was in middle school. Since then, I’ve experimented with different ways of writing. There are many ways to journal — prayer journals, gratitude journals, creative writing journals, bullet journals, notebooks, legal pads, journals with lines and those without. But using the Writing to Heal process has been the most therapeutic and effective way for me to process stress and thoughts throughout my day.
It has become one of my favorite exercises that helps me to identify and understand the blocks that are limiting my growth as a person, while guiding me on a path towards healing and peace. Writing has become my greatest tool, and I highly recommend it as a form in which to learn, heal, and grow in all areas of your life.
Now don’t get me wrong, my spiritual practices have played a major role in my healing process. I also speak to a talk therapist, I have a bi-monthly bodywork appointment with a massage therapist and I try to keep up with other daily self-care practices, including exercise and rest.
I've always enjoyed writing — keeping a journal, writing poems, or writing letters to friends. I’ve vented in some of my journals but I never look back at them. I think part of the reason I wasn't doing that for so long was because to be honest, I was afraid and ashamed of confronting my emotions, feelings and my thoughts.
Last year, I experienced so much emotional turmoil. I was tired of stumbling over the same scenario year in and year out so I decided that I would make my mental and emotional health a priority. I put achieving the next goal on my to-do list on the back burner and decided to put my self care first.
I stumbled on the Writing to Heal process while searching for answers while being in a really dark place. I decided to give it a try because I already enjoyed writing and I felt like I tried everything else. I began reading my old journals and noticed some unwanted patterns that I continued to experience due to lack of clarity, and understanding. I decided to begin there. I used this journaling process to reflect on how I’d come to this place in my life. I had to challenge myself to address the limiting beliefs about myself and the world around me. I had to be intentional about supporting this mental shift and I had to create new systems to support this which is where my therapist and community came in.
Journaling has been a game changer for my toolbox of self care. I'm able to think about things differently, see things from a different perspective, move forward with my life and not overthink or over analyze anymore. I'm a reflective person as it is, but sometimes I forget specific details or something that is relevant to my experience. I used to constantly obsess over the negative. Our minds can play tricks on us sometimes if we allow it to. Writing things down helps us to see things for what they are and has helped me to let things go and move past those mental blocks.
Today, I'm healthier and happier. So I really push for using the Writing to Heal process, especially with people who have experienced some type of trauma, anxiety or depression that they need help to process.
Expressive writing helps to declutter thoughts, to solve problems that plague the mind. It can help us to become in tune with our needs and desires by developing a healthier relationship with self. I had conducted two cycles a month for 3 months and began to see drastic changes in my life.
Here are the simple and easy to follow steps for the Writing to Heal process:
- Find a safe space that is quiet and comfortable to you, where you won’t be interrupted.
Note: 1. Avoid using electronic devices for this activity. For those of you who don't like to write, writing on paper is actually better because it helps you to slow down and to process your emotions and write down what you're feeling at that moment.
- Be honest, Get candid. You are the only one who will read your writing,
- Determine a specific time of the day that you can put aside at least 15 minutes to write. Make sure it’s the same time each day at least for each cycle.
- Set the mood. Turn on some soft music or light a Candid Soul affirmation candle, whatever you need to relax in that space.
- Grab your journal. Choose one appealing to you that will get you excited about writing.
- Set a 15 minute timer.
- Write down your intention at the top of the page. What question do you want answered by the end of this cycle?
- Be descriptive. Include sensory details, colors, and the weather to better record the experience. Let your writing flow and focus on your breathing and the freedom of expression.
- Write for the entire 15 minutes. If you get stuck. Rewrite the last sentence, but keep going.
- Reflect on your words. After the timer goes off, spend 5 minutes reading your entry. Pay attention to what you’ve learned about yourself, anything new that has been revealed to you, notice your choices. Any patterns you’ve discovered should also be noted.
- Repeat the steps above for 3 more days.
Note: Each cycle should include 1 topic to focus on for 4 days. For best results Try not to skip any days within the cycle.
- Decide on your next steps. Whether it’s bringing this new information to your therapist, there are many ways to move forward with your findings. Be intentional about your healing.
*Please note this process is not a replacement for prescribed medication or therapy, but rather an aid.
Journaling can be a powerful tool for self-expression and goal-setting, as well as a way to deeply examine the events of our lives. I believe journaling is an integral part of finding your own truth and through this process, you open the door to your own inner wisdom. Journaling can be hard to begin but once you start it becomes much easier.
Check out more ways to journal at our wellness shop and give the Writing to Heal process a try. Let me know your thoughts, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journal with me: Subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about our Writing to Heal workshops: Writing in Community.
We are spiritual beings navigating a human experience in a society that is constantly trying to tell us who we are. Take time to slow down and get to know yourself by setting aside just 20 minutes a day. You’re worth much more.