By: Michelle Pearce, PhD
We all experience times of pain and suffering in life. These difficult life events affect our bodies, minds, and spirits, not to mention our relationships, jobs, and priorities. Some people seem to be able to not only move through the suffering, but also to experience growth and strengthening that gives purpose to their pain. How do they do it? And, better yet, how can you do it? One effective way is through writing.
What is writing for wellness?
Writing for wellness is using the written word to express thoughts, ideas, and emotions to promote health. The form of writing can vary—journaling, poetry, short stories, letters, and so on. What matters is that the form you choose provides the opportunity to acknowledge, process, release, and/or create through words. Writing for wellness is not about improving grammar, spelling, or mastery of a language. In fact, paying attention to those aspects of writing can impede the effectiveness of using writing as a tool for healing. People experience the most benefit from writing when they write about both the facts of a situation and their feelings about those facts.
What are the benefits of writing?
Writing is a great way to relieve stress and better your health. Indeed, there is much empirical evidence for the healing effect of writing. Numerous research studies have shown that those who journal or write have experienced the following outcomes:
How does writing work?
Acknowledgement of Grief and Suffering
Pain is a signal to stop what we are doing and determine what needs to be done differently to make the pain cease. Emotional pain is a similar signal, and writing is one way to honor this signal. On the page, we stop and look. We take the time to really see what is causing our pain and to determine what needs to change. Just acknowledging and honoring our pain can be very healing.
Writing Prompt: What signals do you need to acknowledge in your life? What have you been ignoring or afraid to acknowledge?
Ability to Find Meaning
Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl believed that “suffering ceases to be suffering … at the moment it finds a meaning.” Writing is a tool that can help us move through suffering by first exploring it, helping us to let go of painful emotions and memories. Through writing, we can search for meaning and explore new identities and pathways to wholeness.
Writing Prompt: What has this difficult event taught you? How have you changed as a result of this situation?
Creation of a New Narrative
Putting difficult life events into words allows us to create a narrative. The shaping and reshaping of this narrative can be a deeply healing practice for many. Through writing, we can create a different way of seeing an event. We can also write ourselves into the future we desire.
Writing Prompt: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Begin your writing with this quote and apply it to a situation in your life that you would like to view differently. Then write the ending of the event and the new beginning you most desire for yourself.
Writing for wellness is a tool you can use anywhere, anytime. No writing experience is necessary. Are you ready to get started?
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