You might have no problem accepting a prescription for drugs, exercise, or a shift in your diet from your doctor to treat your anxiety or stress, but what if you were handed a slip that recommended a daily dose of writing? Have you ever wondered what it is about writing an angry letter (that you will never even send) that makes you feel exquisite relief? You're not alone; writing has been proven to help us alleviate any excessive stress, anger, sadness, or emotions that we may experience. So whether you are set on jotting down your thoughts in a journal, or you want to write slam poetry, it's time to crack out the pen and paper, ladies!
Numerous studies have highlighted the therapeutic effects of writing frequently. For instance, one study documented the effects of daily writing on college students, who were instructed to write for 15 to 20 minutes a day about traumatic or stressful situations that they have experienced in the past. The control group was asked to write for the same amount of time about inane subjects. While the immediate impact of writing about traumatic events was short-term distress, negative mood and physical symptoms, and a decrease in positive mood compared with the control group, the long-term follow-up showed significant improvement. At the end of 4 months, the group of students who had reported upsetting experiences found that their mental — and physical — health had improved (via The Royal College of Psychiatrists).
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So what, exactly, is it about putting pen to paper that helps us feel better and cope more efficiently with the problems in our lives? Experts insist that verbalizing — or writing — our feelings makes our negative emotions less intense and much more manageable. Another study showed that when people see an image of an angry or scared face, they have increased activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain that acts as an alarm to activate several biological systems to protect the body in dangerous situations. Just by looking at an emotionally disturbing picture, people automatically experience emotional distress. However, when participants were asked to label the feelings, another area of the brain was more active — the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (yeesh, science!). This area is most commonly associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences, and it inhibits the uncontrolled response of the amygdala. Basically, when we start to think through traumatic events or depressing or disturbing emotions that we suffer throughout our lives, the act of processing those events through writing actually helps us settle down.
Alright, enough with the science mumbo jumbo! What these studies show is that writing a little every day is as essential as squeezing in a workout, eating healthy, or getting a solid night's sleep. Writing helps kick your brain into gear, so that instead of getting caught up in your emotions you are able to think through them and approach them with a more practical mindset. Plus, keeping a journal is a great way to vent without driving your hubby and friends nuts! You can get all those worries and frustrations out of your head and onto paper. Visualizing those trivial anxieties that pester you incessantly throughout the day might actually help make them vanish for good!
Writing every day is also a great way to keep your vocabulary fine-tuned. If you find yourself constantly saying, "The weather is nice," or "My day was fine," jotting down a quick paragraph about the magnificent sunset you just witnessed, or that absolutely sumptuous cake you had for dessert will actually promote your vocabulary maintenance and expansion! Finally, writing can be a lot like meditating. It is the perfect way to end a hectic day, as it gives you the opportunity to relax and contemplate all of the activities that filled your day. If you are looking for a way to ease into a peaceful night's sleep, then taking a little extra time to set aside your phone, laptop, iPad, kindle, and whatever other electronic devices you use religiously in favor of your journal will actually help you clear your mind and prepare yourself mentally for bed!
>> Read more: 40 Healthy Ways to Relax and De-Stress
All it takes is five to 20 minutes of writing a day in order to keep those stress levels in control! For more information on the benefits of writing, check out our sources: UCLA Science and Technology, The Royal College of Psychiatrics, LifeHack