You might find it hard to believe that simply putting pen to paper to write could give you peace of mind, groundedness, and increased vitality. Yet it’s a fact. Through clinical research, James Pennebaker, author of Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, discovered that writing makes people happier, healthier and less anxious.
Combining writing and meditation can help people with anxious thoughts or ‘monkey mind’ to see these thoughts for what they are – just thoughts – once they get them out of their heads and onto paper. Truth is most of us go around with myriad notions running rampant in our heads. Rarely do we take the time to explore how these thoughts influence our mental health and general well-being.
With that in mind, here are five ways you can begin to curtail anxious thoughts:
1. Pick a time every day to write freely for up to 20 minutes. You can begin with 10 minutes for a week or so, then add on the minutes until you’re more comfortable sitting for longer. It’s widely known that daily meditation helps people recognize destructive thought patterns. While this is a writing exercise, you will be approaching it as a meditation. Some studies on daily meditation even show a reduction in areas of the brain related to anxiety and stress.
2. Carve out a quiet area of your living space just for you. Add items, such as candles, pleasing photos of nature, flowers, and soft furnishings that help you feel relaxed and safe.
3. Open your notebook and begin to write down how you’re feeling at that moment, or what you’re experiencing (i.e., through your senses) as you take in your surroundings.
4. Don’t judge what comes up for you, just record it and notice when it passes.
5. Acknowledge the negative self-talk inside your head. The act of writing it down will gradually help you take away its power.
Engaging in a daily writing practice can help to give voice to our negative thoughts and to stretch our wings creatively.
Try it for one week just 10-15 minutes a day and see how you do!