In today’s world, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of the term ‘self-care,’ but contrary to what some might believe, it’s not all about bubble baths and ‘netflix and chill.’
In fact, one of the best things you can do for yourself during times of stress, anxiety, or depression, involves something most of us do every day (in one form or another) — writing.
Yes, whether it be a heartfelt email to a friend you’ve lost touch with, a flurry of ‘venting’ text messages after a bad day in the office, or a blog post about that annoying family member who always puts their foot in their mouth at family catchups (figuratively, I’m hoping!), writing is something we can all utilise in our mental wellbeing toolkit.
As an author and writing coach, it’s easy for me to boast about the many benefits — but what if writing doesn’t come naturally or you’re a serial typo offender? Well, the good news is, whether you’re an aspiring author or just someone looking to ‘up’ your mental wellbeing game, the benefits of writing remain the same.
Below, are three examples of why writing should be part of your self-care routine (even if you suck at grammar!).
1. CLEARING THE MIND
Toxic workplaces. Annoying customers. Misunderstandings with your partner. A falling-out with a friend… Every day we’re hit with a myriad of stressful circumstances, and sometimes, swinging by the bottle shop or opening up a packet of cigarettes can feel like an easy ‘quick fix.’ But if you’re looking for a healthier alternative to clearing the mind, reaching for a pen and notebook can work just as well!
In fact, journal therapy (or ‘brain dumping’ as I like to call it) is often recommended by psychologists as a natural stress reliever and healing catalyst — and it’s something I myself have leaned on over the years.
You see, as a 10-year-old girl growing up in a home with a mentally and verbally abusive father, and little life beyond school and home, I had a very limited opportunity to talk to anyone about my feelings. However, as I discovered in time, there was one place where I could open up and be myself; somewhere I could share every dark secret.
That place was my journal — and while writing couldn’t stop my dad’s verbally violent outbursts, it did help me to process my thoughts and make sense of ‘why’ I felt so hopeless and alone. It also helped me to feel like I had someone to confide in until the time came where I was strong enough to do so with a real person.
As the years passed and I became an adult who was finally free of my father’s abuse, I discovered that daily writing, particularly gratitude journaling, played a huge role in my mental and physical health. From reduced anxiety and insomnia to a clearer focus of what I had achieved each week (no matter how small) and what I wanted to focus on for the week ahead, the results were amazing.
HOT TIP: Short on time? Try putting aside just five minutes per day to list three things you’re grateful for. In time, you may find that you begin to see a true shift toward more positive thought patterns (and in turn, attracting more positive experiences/people into your life!).
2. SHIFTING SELF-DOUBT & INTERNAL LIES
As humans, one thing we are (sadly) very experienced in, is overlooking all the great things we’ve accomplished and instead focusing on everything we’ve ‘failed’ at.
Just recently, while catching up with one of my writing clients (who happens to be a courageous survivor of domestic violence and rape), I was reminded once again of how powerful writing can be when it comes to shifting negative self-beliefs.
As Angela finished reading through the final draft of her memoir, which we had spent the last three months working on, she shared how much her self-esteem had improved simply through the act of writing and giving a voice to her story.
“For so many years my self-esteem and confidence were shattered, and whenever I thought about sharing my story, I’d feel like asking: ‘Is anyone going to believe me? Am I truly valued? Am I good enough?’ she revealed.
“Sharing all the parts of your life that you’re not proud of is not easy… But to reveal those deeply traumatised secrets we all carry, and to give light to the dark parts of our life journeys, is so healing.
“Knowing people believe me and my story is so validating. It’s boosted my confidence, and after so much exhaustion fighting my traumas over the years, I finally feel there is a bit more freedom in my soul.”
For Angela, being able to look back at how far she had come and everything she had achieved as a survivor of domestic violence, was one of the most powerful parts of her writing journey — something that many other writers I’ve spoken to have echoed.
And if you’re saying to yourself, “Well, that’s cool and all, but I’m not ready to write or publish a book,” the great thing is that even if you’re not looking to share your story on that kind of scale, you can still utilise the power of writing to silence those annoying little voices of self-doubt.
HOT TIP: Whether you share your life in the pages of a diary, or online through a public blog, writing regularly about your life is a great way to work through your feelings, and in time, look back to see how far you’ve come.
3. CREATING PURPOSE FROM YOUR PAST
After experiencing a sexual assault when I was 20, I found myself trapped inside a thick web of depression.
Every morning when I awoke, I was filled with shame and despair. Sometimes I’d stare at the cobwebs hanging softly from the sky blue rafters above my bed, wishing that I could stay there all day. And while there were a few very close friends who I trusted enough to share with, I could barely admit to myself, let alone anyone else, what I had truly experienced.
A few years later, while completing my final year of university, my creative writing lecturer asked us to write a short memoir based on a significant life event we had experienced. I remember tossing and turning in my mind, as I struggled against the internal shame that was telling me to stay quiet.
Alluring as it was to silence myself, I knew that there was a power in writing down my words; to know that someone (even if it was just my lecturer) had ‘heard’ my story, and knew the truth.
To be honest, I thought that sharing my story as part of my final uni assessment would be the end of my ‘writing’ journey – I had no idea of the path it would set in motion. But 10 years later, as a published author who has since shared my journey of triumph over trauma with people all across the globe, and seen the ways in which it has helped others, I’ve discovered a level of healing I could never have imagined!
I believe that we all have a story to share — whether it be with millions or just one person. And while it can feel terrifying to step away from social media’s carefully constructed ‘filter of perfection,’ I believe we gain so much more when we share the dark and painful parts of our lives.
When we choose to liberate ourselves from our past, and transform our adversities into triumphant narratives of hope, meaning, and purpose — not only for ourselves but also others — we discover life’s most precious gifts.
I’ve found that the more I speak out, the more it gives purpose to my pain. And with the power of social media, it’s never been easier for someone to use their past to encourage others on their own journeys.
As William Faulkner said: “If a story is within you, it has got to come out.” So, whether you decide to write a book, create a blog, or just keep a diary, there are countless ways to improve your wellbeing through writing.
And best of all, you never know who your words might help along the way!
JAS RAWLINSON is an Australian mental health speaker and book writing coach who specialises in empowering survivors of trauma to transform their adversities into powerful memoirs. Connect with Jas via her suicide prevention page ‘Reasons to Live’, or subscribe to her site and receive her free gift guide for aspiring writers: #1 secret to getting your story out of your head & onto paper.