The poet William Wordsworth understood something of the power of writing when he said:“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Many of us have already discovered the benefits of creative and expressive writing, helping to calm us and increase feelings of wellbeing, particularly at times when life’s challenges such as loss or change can threaten to knock us off-course.
As a child I spent hours curled up in bed, lost in a good book. I then took up pen and paper, crafting little handmade books accompanied with illustrations, moving on to keep a diary for many years. As a teenager, many of us have known the soothing feeling of getting things down in black and white, pouring our heartfelt feelings into a secret diary kept under lock and key, to be read by another on pain of death! How many of us may have drafted out a letter in anger or the pain of unrequited love, spilling our inner pain onto the page, for the letter to never be sent? As an adult I try to write every day, and feel the benefits that regular writing can bring, carving out calm space and quietening the mind in a similar way to self-care rituals such as yoga, running or mindful meditation practice. When we let go of our hectic lives and busy minds for a while, we stand greater chance of connecting with our more hidden, authentic inner world.
I have found that making time for creative and expressive writing regularly feels focusing and meditative, and helps us to be kinder to ourselves. It can be an invaluable tool for reflective thinking, perhaps shedding new light on old, unhelpful patterns of behaving, revealing something new to us about ourselves. It can even unearth anxieties we didn’t know we held, freeing our mind of the burden of having to repress these toxic thoughts.
Buy yourself a lovely journal to record your writing in. Even the process of choosing this notebook is an important reflection of your self-care, and should give you joy; you are investing in something for yourself – a small act of kindness and a commitment to making space for focusing on you!
This is such a simple exercise, but for everyone it’s unique, personal, and encourages the kind of thinking we want to nurture: coaxing out the good things in life that give us a boost, tuning us into the positive – no matter how tiny.
Create a numbered list down the page from 1 – 50. Start noting down those things that give you joy. This can be anything – it’s completely personal to you! From hearing a bird singing to thinking about a night out with friends. From enjoying a book in the bath to sitting in the sun’s warm rays for a five minute coffee break.
Writing captures things in black and white. It encourages us to slow down, breathe a little more deeply, and reflect on our authentic feelings. With regular practice it can be a surprising and illuminating route towards helping us clarify and explore personal issues; what we think and feel, how we understand ourselves, as well as discovering potential routes towards healing and growth.