To many, writing is homework. Doing it for a grade can be a chore, but there are a lot of benefits to putting your thoughts on paper.
Writing what’s on your mind without a filter is something a lot of counselors suggest to their clients, for those who have a lot on their minds and are having a hard time connecting the dots. Writing in a journal has a similar effect. But even fiction and creative nonfiction writing can be therapeutic.
1. It gets the thoughts out of your head.
Have you ever heard someone say, “write an angry letter and then destroy it?” There’s a good reason this advice is so popular. When thoughts only exist inside your head, your brain brings them up frequently in order to keep the information from fading. This can lead to rumination, or thinking of something negative over and over, making yourself feel worse.
It can also lead to intrusive thoughts, which are thoughts triggered by anxiety, such as seeing a knife and thinking of hurting someone with it. These thoughts almost never lead to action, but they are distressing to the person experiencing them.
When you write something down, you signal to your brain that it doesn’t need to remember the information anymore because it can be accessed somewhere else. Even if you destroy the angry letter later, it still has the same effect.
2. It helps you see things from a new perspective.
Writing things down and reading through them allows you to take a step back and see the forest instead of the trees, i.e. the big picture. Seeing the words instead of having a more abstract concept in your mind helps you to make connections you wouldn’t be able to make otherwise. Making a creative piece that captures your emotions helps you make sense of them. When something is tangible, we understand it better.
Also, seeing things in writing allows us to see them from an observer’s viewpoint, which can lead us to reach new conclusions. It can give structure and meaning to otherwise chaotic feelings and memories.
3. It improves your language skills.
If you want to write something that you can share with others, such as a story or an essay, you have to make sure you’re communicating effectively. This means thinking deeply about word choice and other rules of language. Learning how to say more with less words and to arrange them in a way that is impactful will help you to stand out when you communicate with others. That’s not to say that every writer is a great speaker as well, but the two do sometimes overlap.
4. It improves physical health.
Expressing yourself through writing can improve the symptoms of many illnesses, both physical and mental. It can help you work through trauma and even improve conditions like IBS and rheumatoid arthritis. Writing can even help you heal wounds faster.
When you take care of your mind, you take care of your body. When you reduce stress, you free up your body’s resources to be used for things like healing wounds and managing chronic conditions.
Writing may seem daunting at first, but it’s a great way to organize your thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t require complicated or expensive equipment, and you don’t need to take classes on it. All you need is a writing tool and paper, or a word processor on your computer, and some uninterrupted time.