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"Write Your Way to Wellbeing"

Jo Bisseker Barr - article published in Holistic Therapist magazine

MANY of us are used to writing up case notes and reports, but we are often discouraged from writing to explore our feelings. Yet, if we allow our creativity to flow unedited, this can be an invaluable tool for reflective thinking, helping to calm the mind and increasing well-being.

Although some GPs have recommended reading self-help books, particularly for anxiety and depression, emerging research suggests that writing for yourself, getting things down in black and white on a regular basis, has a soothing effect, easing stress and anxiety.


Professor Kadvita Vedhara has said, ‘If people have traumatic or unresolved issues, the process of managing them places not only a psychological, but also a physiological and autonomic load on the body, so the opportunity to write about them is a cathartic process, releasing the negative mood, and enhancing the role of the immune system’.

A study carried out by Nottingham University in March 2017 subjected volunteers to a 4mm puncture wound to their upper arms, then asked them to write about a traumatic experience or unresolved conflict in their lives, over several days. The results suggested that expressive writing can even help physical wounds heal more quickly, through an effect on our immune system.


Reflective writing is simple. You don’t need any writing experience, just an openness and curiosity to see what unfolds when you get things down on the page. Try out these simple guided activities designed to help explore yourself and your situations; you may find it illuminating – and even fun!


Always begin with this exercise, it’s like stretching before a work-out. Find a quiet place to sit, away from electronic devices. Breathe deeply and calm your mind. This links to mindfulness practice, cultivating a ‘breathing- space’ where awareness is brought to the present moment.

Write non-stop for 5 minutes. Write whatever’s in your head, trying not to plan, or censor yourself. Don’t worry about structure, spelling or grammar.

Give yourself permission to write anything. Whatever you write will be right for you.


This exercise involves casting ourselves in a new role. Giving ourselves mythical or super-powers and imagining new endings can have a powerful effect on our perception of difficult life-events:

Write about something from your past that didn’t go well, but in the third person – ‘he/she did this’, etc. - but as a myth or fairy-tale, beginning, ‘Once upon a time...’ Give yourself or other characters magical powers or turn them into super- heroes. Give your story the ending you desire.


The links between eating and managing our emotions run deeper than we might think. Sharing this exercise with a group of friends, then reflecting together on what you write can be illuminating:

Write about a meal remembered. Set yourself a time, say, 20 minutes. Or write about the best, and then the worst meal you can remember. What does this tell you about yourself and your own relationship with food? 

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Jo Bisseker Barr

About Me

With an Honours degree in English including Creative Writing, I am a qualified and experienced psychodynamic counsellor, working within my private practice.

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