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May 12, 2016

How Writing Can Improve our Spiritual & Mental Health.

Flickr/martin

I have been through a lot in life.

I have had many personal losses, work was never that great, and my romantic life was a mess—all due to a serious anxiety disorder that took me so long to learn how to deal with and even to accept it.

But now everything feels so much better—and the secret of my healing process is very simple: I started writing.

Yes, writing is my secret weapon.  And this is what I would like to share with you…

It all started after an awful breakup, one that was so devastating that I thought I would never recover from it. I had constant panic attacks and couldn’t bear the idea of being on my own and facing my fears. So I spent all my days working until exhaustion and all my nights in the local bar drinking until I could finally fall asleep.

Until the day that I came across an article talking about how writing could improve our spiritual and mental health.

I wasn’t previously aware that it is scientifically proven that writing can improve your health. Journaling, blogging or any other form of writing can not only sharpen your brain, but also your spiritual and mental side.

For being a complex task, it puts many areas of one’s brain into motion, from our memory to our pleasure centers. Writing brightens up our imaginations, making it easier for us to see solutions and possibilities we hadn’t considered before. So then life doesn’t seem such a big ordeal anymore.

Even patients fighting cancer have been reported as showing improvements in the way that they see their illness after taking on writing as a daily task. Yes, it doesn’t cure them, but it helps them to enjoy the time they have left in a much better way.

I was desperate and didn’t even stop to think if it made sense or not. I knew that my behaviour was taking me down to a very dangerous road, so I needed a solution—any solution, to be honest.

I went to the nearest stationary shop on my lunch break and bought myself a notebook and a couple of pens. And when I went back home and anxiety took over my head, I started writing—just like that. No judgements, no second thoughts. Just me and the paper.

I was free to say anything I wanted—to be angry, childish or over the top. I complained about everything I wanted—I asked God why he was doing this to me. I said it wasn’t fair, that I didn’t deserve it. That she shouldn’t have left me for such a silly reason. I went on and on through self-pity for as long as I wished.

I never told anybody about it, because I wanted to feel comfortable enough to say whatever I wanted without creating any expectations. I wasn’t ready to share my thoughts, and I still can’t do it, but—more than that—I didn’t want anybody asking me if I had written on that day or not.

But nowadays the panic attacks are gone, and anxiety isn’t waiting for me every night anymore.

I know I would never publish my thoughts on the internet, but I think I have something to share about my experience. So this is how I fought anxiety through writing—and it is simple as it seems:

  • I wrote every evening—whatever came to my mind and for as long as I could—until exhaustion, but the goal here was to empty my head from those wild thoughts.
  • I started taking the notebook with me to work, and every time that I would catch myself overthinking, I would write again.
  • Instead of using a computer, I was always journalling by handwriting, which seems to improve the benefits of writing.
  • It didn’t have to be a whole story. Sometimes it would be just a sentence—many times, a very angry and frustrated sentence. But it was there on the paper now, instead of struggling inside of me.
  • I never tried to make sense of my writing, because it was about my feelings, and feelings aren’t logical. They don’t need to make sense, just to be acknowledged and accepted.
  • I also read a lot, especially blogs, as I had heard that could improve our health too.
  • I never worried, even for a second, if it wasn’t perfect or if the grammar wasn’t correct. Nor did I worry about what people would think if they were to read my words someday. I was writing for myself, and myself only.

So here I am, sharing my secret with you and really hoping that you embrace this idea as well. I understand that you might be skeptical or thinking that what works for one person might not work for everybody.

Still, I will insist and invite you to do the same as I did. Grab any piece of paper, or turn on your computer, and write the first thing that comes to your mind. Even a napkin—if you are in a restaurant—will do.

Just try it and let me know how it worked for you.

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Author: Patrick Cole 

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/martin

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