Dr Stan Steind, Clinical Psychologist
Therapeutic writing; it’s the new technical term for something that’s as old as the ink well itself, perhaps even older. So rather than claim it as a hot new trend, we are here to pay homage to the age-old art of writing down your feelings….with a pen (gasp)!
With technology and more specifically social media taking the world by storm, our ability to share (and overshare) has never been more accessible. Back in the day, people and especially youngsters, wrote a diary to vent their feelings but technology has somewhat replaced putting pen to paper. But does the digital space provide the same opportunity to be true to yourself and express your real emotions?
Social media provides a platform (or soap box) to create a brand for yourself, your business and everything in between; pets you are not exempt. People’s online profiles are usually an embellishment of their normal more vanilla lives and as a result, social media can sometimes create feelings of inferiority and insecurity. So, what does this analogy have to do with writing a diary, I hear you ask? Even though our society has become increasingly expressive, with the ability to share our lives, every waking moment, often those stories don’t convey the real you.
Enter….the good old written diary. This age-old little gem offers a safe haven to say whatever the heck you like with the added benefit of scrunching it up and throwing it in a real-life bin, should you ever feel the urge. Although some people may feel Microsoft word offers the same benefit, your digital footprint is permanent, not to mention grammar and spell check getting in the way of pouring your little heart out.
Strong research backs up the mental health benefits of therapeutic writing with American social psychologist Dr James Pennebaker leading the way since the 1980s. Research aside, the fact that humans have been writing diaries for centuries is testament to the theory that writing down your emotions and taking time to reflect before making your next move is powerful.
For those of you who haven’t contemplated writing a diary since year three, it can be a little confronting but here are a few basic steps to get you back into the groove:
- Buy a really nice diary or piece of stationery that you love.
- Pick up time when you can allocate 10 minutes to yourself. This may be first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
- Start writing! It may seem like written diarrhoea but writing anything that comes into your head with no censor will help you to get your emotions on paper. Remember no-one has to ever read it.
- Read what you have written
- Reflect on what you have written. What sort of emotions are being conveyed?
By writing down a whole raft of uncensored emotions that may have been stored up, you are releasing emotions and developing new personal insight. Although therapeutic writing has many health benefits, if you have experienced trauma or are easily overwhelmed, consulting your doctor and a psychologist before starting this exercise is advised.
If you like this article you might also like: