Writing can serve many purposes, as a great creative outlet, to earn a degree, or a way to make a living, but its purely therapeutic benefits are sometimes overlooked. Writing down how you feel, your thoughts about events in your life, and remembering the past can help you become a better, stronger person. Here are a few tips and techniques that will help you use writing as a tool to deal with stress, trauma and frustration in your own life.
Why Write Therapeutically
Not sure why you should pick up a pen and paper and write down your thoughts? Here are some tips on why therapeutic writing is so beneficial.
1. You can trust it implicitly. Your writing isn’t going to spill your secrets to anyone, and if you’re worried about someone seeing what you’ve written you can destroy it when you’re done.
2. It allows you control. When you use writing as a form of therapy you are the one who is in control of what you talk about and how far it goes.
3. It’s portable. You can bring your writing with you anywhere you go, allowing you to get support no matter where you are.
4. It can help you deal with things on your own terms. If you’re the type of person who likes to take charge of your own issues, writing is one way to do that.
5. It’s a great creative outlet. While its primary function may be to help you deal with emotional issues, writing can also end up being an amazing creative outlet that sparks a lifelong hobby or career.
6. It can be more or it can end there. With your writing, you can choose to make your thoughts public in a book or a blog, or you can keep it private for the rest of your life. The choice is entirely up to you.
7. There is no commitment. Since you’re not paying for it or utilizing any other services you can stop and start writing whenever you want. If you try it and don’t like it you don’t have to feel bad stopping.
Try out these therapeutic writing techniques to get you started.
8. Chuck the rules of writing. Many supporters of therapeutic writing encourage the process of a “mind dump” which is basically just writing down anything and everything that comes to mind without any regard to grammar, spelling, sequence or the usual rules of writing. For new writers, it can be a great way to break the ice and get started.
9. Focus on a theme. It can be pretty general, but focusing on a theme like “childhood” or “people I love” will help you to navigate more easily through your writing and get to know yourself better.
10. Don’t be afraid to create several drafts. Writing about people or events doesn’t have to be a one shot type of situation. You can write about things that have made a big difference in your life multiple times, until you feel like you’ve really understood or dealt with them.
11. Write letters you’ll never send. Sometimes when you’re angry or upset with someone it can help to write them letters telling them everything you think or feel about them. You don’t have to send these letters if you don’t want to, but writing them can help you to move on.
12. Keep a daily journal. By putting down your feelings in a journal you’ll have a ritual of writing set up and you’ll be able to easily look back and see where you were at different times in your life.
13. Just write. Don’t spend too much time worrying about what, how well, or how often you’re writing. Instead, just write for yourself and worry about everything else later.
14. Write your autobiography. One way to get started with writing is to set out to write your autobiography. Getting down you major life events on paper can help you understand where you are now.
15. Write from another point of view. Often we get very wrapped up in the way that we see things and forget that there are other points of view. Consider writing about a big event in your life from the perspective of someone else who was there.
16. Use prompts. If you’re having trouble getting started with your writing, you might want to consider using writing prompts. These can help direct your writing and get you thinking about things you might not have otherwise.
17. Consider poems. Writing doesn’t have to just be in prose form. Poetry can be just as cathartic and helpful and you may find its format more preferable in your own writing.
18. Track your dreams. Dreams can sometimes tell us things about our lives that conscious thoughts do not, so write down your dreams when you wake up. You may find patterns or discover great inspiration for a story.
19. Meditate then write. Sometimes clearing out your mind and getting focused can go a long way in getting more out of your writing.
20. Create fictional situations. Writing therapeutically doesn’t always have to be about real life events. Put yourself in fictional situations to gain deeper knowledge of who you really are.
21. Use stream of consciousness.Famous writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf have used this style to create acclaimed writing. You can try it out as well. Just write down what comes to your mind in a single long stream of writing.
Use these tips to get the most out of your therapeutic writing.
22. Go beyond the superficial. Anyone can write about what they did on a given day, but taking your writing beyond that and exploring the meanings of things is essential to getting more out of your experience.
23. Reread. You might be tempted to just write things down and discard them, but sometimes it can be helpful to revisit what you’ve written before. It can help you understand your train of thought and why you might have acted as you did.
24. Find a pen and paper you love. Getting writing tools that make you want to write is helpful in getting you to make writing a habit in your life.
25. Let your feelings flow. The time you spend therapeutically writing is your own. Don’t repress your feelings and instead let them come out. You’ll likely feel better afterward.
26. Don’t self-censor. No one has to read your writing except for you, so don’t censor what you write or feel you have to leave certain parts out. If you do, that might tell you more about yourself than what you’ve actually written.
27. Turn it into something more– or don’t. Your writing could be expanded from short stories into a full novel, used to create a fictional story, or if you so choose, forgotten about altogether.
28. Consider a blog. If you prefer typing to writing then you might want to set up your own blog. It can be made private if you don’t want to share and makes it easy to archive your feelings.
29. Work with your own natural abilities and talents. Everyone has their own unique talents and you should capitalize on them in your writing as it can make the process much less frustrating.
30. Stick with it. Many people struggle with getting started with writing. Even if it’s an uphill battle, stick with it and you’ll eventually see results.
31. Let it be. For some, writing and leaving it alone can be the best approach. It can let you unload your feelings and leave them behind rather than continue to carry them with you.
32. Read your work aloud. It might be hard to do but reading your work aloud can sometimes give you a better understanding of it than simply reading it to yourself.
33. Brainstorm. Creating mind maps before you write can be helpful in getting your ideas down on paper and giving you something to write about.
34. Write on topics that move you. Rather than focusing on topics like what you had for dinner, write about things that have been important in your life or that draw an emotional response.
35. Write about difficult events in your life. These topics are often the hardest to address but are those that you most desperately need to deal with if you want to move past them.
36. Explore your childhood. Many adult problems begin in childhood, so revisit yours in your writing to see what might have affected you negatively.
37. Consider who and what matters to you. Focusing your writing on those you love and the things you care most about can be very revealing.
38. Force introspection. Pushing yourself to go beyond just looking at the surface of things and really writing about what makes you tick will give you much better results in your writing.
39. Realize you can help others. You might be reluctant to share your writing with others, but in some cases, sharing your story could help someone else dealing with a difficult situation.
40. Look to others for inspiration. There are many people out there who have published books, articles and blogs about their struggles. Look to these for guidance and inspiration in your own writing.
41. Make it a habit. When you write often, you’ll make it a habit which is much more useful than simply doing it everyone once in awhile.
Uses and Benefits
Curious about the benefits of therapeutic writing? These tips offer insights into what you have to gain from trying it and ways you can use it to improve your life.
42. Improve yourself. Writing can help you more clearly see where you need to improve your actions and how you can change your life. Once you know how you need to change you can more easily move forward with improving yourself.
43. Feel stronger. When you face some of the troubling events in your life head on you can come out the other side a much stronger and happier person.
44. Put the past to rest. Some things in life are hard to let go, yet writing them down can sometimes be a way to mentally and physically remove them from your life.
45. Deepen your self-knowledge. Through writing, you can get to know who you really are and what you really want in life.
46. Gain empathy. Very often in life we only see events from our own point of view, not realizing that our words or actions may have hurt others. Use your writing as a way to empathize with others and you’ll build stronger relationships with those around you.
47. Explore your habits. It can be easy to fall into ruts and old habits, but writing can help you expose the ways that you’re repeating the same things again and again in your life and you’ll have the written records to prove it.
48. Meet your goals. There are many out there who believe that writing down your goals is the first step to achieving them. They might be right, and writing can help you figure out what steps you need to take to end up where you want to be.
49. Overcome obstacles. We’ve all faced things in life that seem insurmountable, but through writing you can deal with these things in fictional situations before you ever get there in real life.
50. Conquer your fears. Sometimes writing down what you’re afraid of can help you to realize that you have more power than you thought, or that there is no reason to be afraid in the first place.
51. Feel better about who you are. Writing can be a great way to improve your self-esteem and self-worth. Take the time to make lists of your best attributes or to make yourself the hero of a story.
52. Understand your priorities. Through your writing you’ll learn what it is you really value in life which can show you how to move forward or repair past mistakes.