It’s OK to not be OK: How writing can help us heal

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There was a time when society deemed emotion to be a bit of a cumbersome, useless, almost inappropriate part of the human experience – but today, societal attitudes towards mental health are changing rapidly.

The understanding that emotional expressiveness is a healthy part of life is fast entering into the collective psyche. Mental health is important, and we are finally recognising how not only expressing our emotions, but accepting them, can help us in so many facets of our personal and professional lives.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge found that “writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events” brought improved physical and psychological health in participants of the study.

Participants were asked to write about traumatic, stressful or emotional events for 15–20 minutes on 3–5 occasions. The researchers found that the study participants who did write about such events generally developed significantly better physical and psychological outcomes compared with those who write only about neutral topics. The researchers ultimately realised that survivors of trauma can use expressive writing as a therapeutic tool, and in psychiatric settings, to bring about positive changes to their physical and mental health.

But it’s not just survivors of trauma who can benefit from expressing their experiences through writing. The practise of keeping a journal and writing expressively has many positive health benefits, including:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved mood and mental well-being
  • Faster wound healing (Read about it here!)
  • Managing anxiety (by shining the light of your consciousness onto your anxious experiences)
  • Improved confidence through positive self-affirmations
  • A reduction in stress levels and depressive symptoms by helping you identify negative beliefs or behaviours
  • And many, many more.

Everybody is different, and so emotional expression, and the medium through which people feel is most effective for themselves, will be different for each person. Experiment with different ways of expressing your emotional energy. It may be journalling or expressive writing, it may be a meditative colouring in book, or it may even be swimming underwater and yelling, laughing and releasing whatever you are feeling. For many people, choosing to expand their understanding of mental health by applying for a Health and Community Services course can be beneficial for processing their experiences. The key is to find a safe place and a safe way for you to express your emotional energy. If you can transform it into something beautiful, like a poem, a painting, or a song, then all the better.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you let go of what is already done. Otherwise, the emotional residue of whatever you have or have been experiencing will continue to affect you. But remember – your emotions can always be freed. Always. Little by little, or, sometimes, all at once.

Find your safe place, and express yourself. You will feel so much better for it.

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