Writing Therapy

I’ve always enjoyed writing, even in school I enjoyed my English classes, I wasn’t the best at it, but it was something I secretly enjoyed. Once I left school I didn’t really do any writing. I wrote assignments for college but that was more of a chore than anything else and I used to always make a shit load of lists (I like to feel organised even though I’m not) but I never really wrote for the enjoyment. I first got back into writing when I was going through my online counselling. On my account was a diary section where I could write whatever I wanted and only I could see it. I usually did this whilst I was sat at my desk in work. It helped me get out the weeks events whilst still looking busy.

When I started my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) I began to write more but it wasn’t until I was a few months into my therapy that I decided to go ahead with my blog. Writing became another form of therapy for me. It allowed me to explain why I am the way I am, my past, express whatever I wanted to express and more importantly, get the shit out of my head that I couldn’t do in real life.

Writing was a big part of my therapy (You can read about my scripts HERE) as it is with most therapies. You write on thought record sheets or mood/activity diaries which all require you to express what is going on in your head. Writing can help us see from a different perspective. When we write everything out it is sometimes easier to make sense of what is going on or how/why we are feeling a certain way. There are a few different ways you can incorporate writing into your everyday life and thrive from its benefits:

  • Rainy day letter. This is a letter that you write when you are having a good day. You write a letter for yourself to read on a day where you don’t feel so good or are struggling to cope. Another way of writing a rainy day letter is by imagining that you are happy and well when you are going through a low period. Your letter should focus around:
  • Your personal strengths
  • What helps you feel better or benefits you
  • Try and advise yourself on how to lift your mood and mention what has worked in the past
  • Advice on what not to do or what to avoid
  • Mention the times you have bounced back from a low period
  • Speak to yourself in a compassionate and caring way. Use positive words and express your understanding and empathy

 

  • Letter to others. We all know how difficult it can be to verbally speak about how we feel to others. Sometimes it can be helpful to write a letter addressed to that person. Explain to them how you feel or what you think. Explain what happened, how they hurt you or how much you appreciate them. Write it all out and read it through a couple of times. See how you feel afterwards. It is then completely your decision on what to do with the letter. Some people find all they needed was to read it out loud, some people might burn it, soak it in water, put it in a bottle, send it to that person or even just imagine the person receiving the letter and seeing the reaction they wanted said person to have.
  • A better future letter. This can be a letter addressed to yourself or to someone else who might need it. For example, someone who is suffering from depression might have feelings of hopelessness about themselves and their future. Having them write a letter (or have someone they trust write a letter to them) from a reassuring future point of view. It can be anything from 1 year to 5 years or even 10 years into the future. Take your friend who might be struggling mentally at work. Write them a letter about how they have managed to find a satisfying job with colleagues that they get along with. Inform them that they have stability, happiness and that everything just fell into place for them. A letter either from your future self or a letter about your future could provide you with so much hope and reassurance.
  • Mind Dump. I used to do this a lot but it wasn’t so much dumping words or sentences on a page, instead the page was filled with angry scribbles more than anything. I always felt better after a good angry scribble though. After a stressful or anger filled day I would sometimes get my drawing pad out and just scribble on the page to release all the tension. I couldn’t verbally talk about it because it was either too hard or I would just burst out into rage. This is a good form of writing to start off with.
    Sometimes we get random notes or words that pop into our heads and it can be good to write them down or even take 10 minutes out of our day to see what is going on up there. Whatever you write down doesn’t even have to make sense. When you read it back it might be total nonsense but at least it is out of your head! You can write, scribble, sketch or draw then take a look afterwards and see if there is anything you think you need to focus on or is worth spending the time to think about.
  • This is something that I used to do daily (I have written more detail about my journal HERE). When I was going through my CBT I kept a journal in which I recorded each day something that made me smile, feel good, accomplished or brought some sort of positivity into my day. There was the odd day where I struggled to find something positive so instead I would write something along the lines of:
    ‘Today has been a tough day, but you have made it through. The day is almost over and tomorrow is a fresh start. Take it easy on yourself’.

My journal actually helped me out a lot, especially when I was still struggling with PTSD and depression. Treat yourself to a nice diary or note pad and try it out for yourself!

 

Writing can work for almost any mental illness and will benefit you in some way. Writing has proven effective for:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Grief/loss
  • Eating disorders
  • Relationship Issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic illness’s
  • Low self-esteem

 

When I was getting back into writing these were some tips that helped me get started.

  • Write in a format that suits you. Do you prefer writing or typing? Do you prefer a direct letter or words on a page? Would you prefer a pretty journal, laptop or a simple notepad?
  • Try and fit it into your routine. When I was writing in my journal I would set some time aside every evening to reflect on the day, see how I was feeling and then write it out.
  • Mix up your writing locations. I do most of my writing at home but after a while it can get tiring writing in the same place and I tend to lose focus easier. Every now and again I like to mix up my location, it refreshes my mind.
  • A good starting point is to write out why you are writing in the first place. What is your reason? Who are you doing this for?

It’s also helpful to remember:

  • You don’t have to write a page full each time.
  • It doesn’t have to be neat, tidy or even punctual.
  • Don’t worry so much about what you write.
  • Write as though you will be the only one reading it.

Once you start writing it will just become second nature to you and everything will just flow.

Try it out for yourself or recommend it to a friend and see if it helps them!

Sending my love,

Emma xo