On writing as therapy

Journal Writing generic as Therapy Standard
On writing as therapy
Writing is a therapy more powerful than we might imagine, explains Debbie Flint, author and founder of Retreats for You in Devon

Many of us have dreamt of taking time out to write our memoirs, our first novel or a book of poetry. Perhaps we regularly fill in a journal. Somehow, the very act of writing makes us feel better. Many health professionals are now taking that a step further and demonstrating that writing is a therapy perhaps more powerful than we might imagine.

By helping us explore our innermost thoughts and concerns, writing can provide relief. Whether it’s used for reducing stress, helping to deal with issues such as depression and anxiety or just as escapism through creative expression, writing helps us feel better after we’ve committed our gripes or innermost thoughts to paper or keyboard.

For some, writing is a relaxing pastime. For others, it is a treatment within itself. Research has shown that writing in a therapeutic way is not just good for mental health – it may even improve physical health, boost the effectiveness of the immune system, and promote healing too. Canadian therapist Sue Reynolds leads therapeutic writing programmes and in her TEDx talk Writing your way out of trouble, which focuses on her experiences with women in jail, she says: ‘Writing down what distresses and dismays us not only makes us feel better – it improves our resistance to physical illness, decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression and improves our sleep patterns’.

Writing can help us:

  • Reduce stress and symptoms of depression, fear and anxiety

Self-help guru Deepak Chopra says we have 60,000 thoughts a day, and 95% of them are the same as yesterday. Exploring different thoughts by immersing ourselves in a wonderfully self-indulgent 20 minutes of writing me-time can spur on different thought patterns and help change our attitude to our stress, illness or other health issues.

  • Overcome trauma and events that have caused psychological harm

There is evidence that writing therapeutically about difficult experiences can help people learn to cope with them. Our memories are subjective. How often has a dream seemed as real as a memory? We can try re-writing the events in an awful memory or lessen the impact it has when we re-live it in our mind.

  • Help us get physically healthier

Research has also found intense, regular writing sessions can have benefits including physical changes, such as boosting the activity of the immune system. If we laugh, it affects our bodies positively. Similarly if we write about the most amazing moments of our lives, it can leave us feeling far more elated and have tangible effects on our physiology.

Not to mention, of course, helping us unlock our creativity! Some specialists offer writing as therapy sessions. But even getting a journal and sitting for 20 minutes a day can help make a therapeutic difference.

Treat yourself to a writing retreat

One of the best ways to create the space to write therapeutically is to go on a writing retreat, where you can escape from your surroundings and everyday life and have some concerted me-time. At Retreats For You in Devon, you can also have access to yoga, country walks, healthy food and other writers who may be working on novels or poetry. It could be the start of a whole new era in dealing with stress in your life. Read our full report here and our reviewer’s personal journey here.

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