How and Why to Start Writing to Heal

Writing to heal can be a powerful form of therapy that many people leave untapped. We're all familiar with the idea of meeting with a therapist and talking through our struggles, but writing can also be a effective step in the healing process.

How Writing Can Heal You

There are a number of ways that writing can positively impact your health. First, there are the emotionally healing aspects. Writing requires introspection. You must examine what you're going through from different angles. As a result, it helps you better understand cause and effect, and you come away with a better sense of self. The act of writing is also a commitment. You're achieving a goal, which can help you heal from pain.

But you may be surprised to learn that writing — especially the type that focuses on exploring trauma or difficult times in your life — can promote physical healing too. In 1986, one psychology professor found that students who wrote in this manner had fewer trips to the doctor. Writing can even help wounds heal faster, boost immune functioning, and decrease symptoms of certain chronic illnesses.

Actions You Can Take Today

Writing can help you keep track of your thoughts. Rather than just looping through the same distressing emotions and questions over and over, therapeutic writing captures them and analyzes them. Give any of these styles a try.

  • Journaling: Write about your thoughts without censoring them, even if they're unpleasant. Sometimes just putting those thoughts down can help you work through them. This is a form of expressive writing, where you're focusing on emotions and experiences, not punctuation and grammar. Try writing 20 minutes for four days in a row on a very personal topic. Truly let go — explore your deepest emotions about a traumatic or difficult event. If you want, link this to what you'd like the future to look like.
  • Poetry: You don't need to sound like a professional poet to reap the benefits of this writing style. Just write a list of simple, positive images from your childhood, describing how those memories looked, smelled, tasted, and sounded. Write associated emotions and then turn those details into a simple poem.
  • Letter Writing: You can write a letter to a loved one, sharing how you're truly feeling, or write a letter to someone you have unfinished business with. You don't need to send the letter. Just the act of writing a letter can be therapeutic.

Each time you write, take time to reflect on what you wrote after you're done. Don't expect dramatic changes overnight. You may simply experience small shifts over time. And above all, be compassionate with yourself. Don't judge your writing or your feelings. If you need a little more help, there are online courses that can guide you through therapeutic writing. You can also consider meeting with a counselor or therapist who can help you start writing to heal, and tailor the process to benefit you and your unique situation specifically.

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