••• The International Writers Magazine - 24 Years on-line - Writing & Health
How Writing Is Good For Your Physical and Mental Health
There’s a reason why, when tyrants take power, one of the first things they do is attack books and writing.
There is also a reason why freedom of speech is one of the first rights enshrined in the US Constitution. The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. And for good reason. Words have incredible power — they can be both balm and poison and can heal as well as kill.
But you might not have thought too much about the power of words in your own life. Maybe you thought that their magic was only gifted to the artists and great thinkers of the world. The truth is, however, that if you have thoughts, you have the power of words and you can use that power for a good purpose.
Words are about more than just communicating with others; they’re about turning inward, connecting with your own mind, spirit, and body. They’re about helping you to discover that inner world that you may have hidden even from yourself. They’re also about releasing that world, or, at the very least, using language to take control over that world. That can be incredibly healing. This article will show you how and why.
The CDC estimates that as many as 20% of all Americans or more than 50 million people suffer from chronic pain, and the effects of chronic pain are more than just physical. Chronic pain can also wreak havoc on your psychological, emotional, and social well-being. Studies show that people who experience chronic pain are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Not only that, but persistent pain also literally reshapes the structures of the brain which can lead to cognitive impairment.
Journaling every day, however, can help to slow, mitigate, and even reverse some of these effects. Putting your feelings into words can help you purge some of the fears, stresses, and other negative emotions that are associated with pain disorders. In addition, putting your body’s physical symptoms into language can help you become more aware of what your body is experiencing, and as your understanding grows, so will your ability to analyze and understand your experiences, which will likely reduce your fears and anxieties even more.
Likewise, the more you understand your body’s experiences and the better able you are to describe them, the more effectively you will be able to communicate these experiences to others if and when you wish. It can be empowering to know that you are able to make your loved ones and even your healthcare providers understand what you are going through.
There’s also a significant cognitive benefit. Because writing takes cognitive effort, it requires focus and concentration. Using these skills can help you take back the mental function that your chronic pain has tried to steal.
Writing can be about more than keeping a private journal. In fact, you may find that writing for an audience is more beneficial to you. When you are experiencing mental or physical illness, for example, you may find yourself tempted to retreat into your home and isolate yourself from others. In fact, studies show that social isolation is now reaching epidemic proportions. It is a risk that grows even greater with age. However, writing can be a remarkable way to reach out and connect without ever even leaving your home.
Using expressive writing to share your stories, thoughts, and feelings with others can help you cope with past traumas or face present life challenges. As you put your thoughts out into the world, you can gain a level of perspective you never thought possible as well as garner a level of support you never would have dreamed of prior to doing it.
You will see, above all else, that you are not alone. You are, in fact, connected to others in ways you never would have imagined, even if only through the remote connections of a blog or social media site. Sharing your writing publicly is a perfect tool, not only for reaching out and building relationships, but also as a way of learning to see yourself as others see you. Your writing becomes a sort of mirror, reflecting back to you your own life story in a new light. You come to understand the meaning and significance of your life’s stories as you may never have before.
Making writing a part of your daily life isn’t nearly as difficult as it may seem. No one expects or even wants you to be another Shakespeare. We already know his work. What we want is you. Don’t try to compare yourself to someone else and, for heaven’s sake, don’t try to mimic anyone else.
Just be yourself and, above all else, tell the truth. That will be the most challenging part because telling the truth is never easy. It takes courage to turn inside and try to put what you find there into words, but when you succeed, it feels amazing!
And, as you’re getting started, remember you don’t have to be so serious. You can have fun with it. Play. Experiment. Go for something completely out of character, even if it scares you. Getting creative and adding a bit of flare doesn’t mean you’re not being real. It just means you’re exploring all that words can do. It also means you’re learning to see and tell your story from lots of different angles.
Words are how we learn to understand and explain our world. They are also how we learn to understand and explain ourselves. Using writing to harness the incredible power of words isn’t just something for the Virginia Woolfs and Stephen Kings of the world. It’s for all of us. When you incorporate writing into your daily life, whether in the form of a private journal or a public blog or any number of genres in between, you’ll find yourself not only becoming a better writer, but also a happier and healthier you!
© Indiana Lee - June 2020 Portland. Oregon
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