Many of us are familiar with journaling. As school kids, we were often asked to engage in journal writing, usually in English class. We were given prompts and then asked to free write about that topic for five minutes or so. Some of us were willing to reveal inner thoughts and feelings; others, not so much, for we knew our teachers would be reading that content.
Now, as adults, we have the opportunity to write as we please, when we please, always with the option to share that writing with others or not. It’s pretty liberating, actually. And so, we should make a habit of writing – when we are happy, sad, angry, inspired, or just feeling strongly about an issue, event, family, and more.
Here is the other often unexpected benefit of regular writing. It can actually change your thinking in significant ways. And changes in thinking can actually change your life. Here are six ways this can happen.
- Writing Things Down Can Clear Your Mind
We’ve all had nights when we cannot sleep because our brains just won’t shut down. We also know that if we get up and write down those things we are afraid we may forget and must get done the next day, or problems we may need a solution for, we can fall off to sleep.
The same thing can happen during the day. When your mind is filled with clutter, worries, problems, etc., write them all down. That simple act will transfer them from your mind onto the paper (or your device screen), and that act will then allow your brain to function on the more important tasks that are before you. And attacking those tasks will be far more productive. Even if you do not have critical tasks at hand, your mind will have a sense of peace. And in that sense of peace, solutions and new plans may emerge.
- Writing Provides Release from Painful History
There’s a reason why people in counseling and psychotherapy are often given writing assignments. Adults may have many events and situations in their pasts that were painful, and those experiences are often buried deep within their consciousness. They have lived with their pain for years; they have held it within, and it impacts who they are today and how they behave. Getting all of this painful history down in writing provides a genuine release, perhaps not total, but it does provide at least a partial catharsis. Even if you are not in counseling, there may be people whom you feel have wronged you, betrayed you, and caused you significant pain. You hold these in the back of your mind, and there they fester and bubble up from time to time. Writing letters to these individuals to express how you feel about their behavior and how it impacted you does provide a significant release, whether those letters are ever sent or not. The point is to get that painful history out, so that your thinking can change. You may not ever forget, but your thought processes may move toward forgiveness, something that frees you to place thoughts on more positive behaviors moving forward.
- Writing Promotes Creative Thought
When we engage in just free-writing our thoughts, plans, goals, likes, dislikes, feelings about current events (individual, local, national, international), thoughts about family members, even projects or issues at work, an interesting thing can happen. As we are writing, and our mind is wandering from topic to topic, the creative portions of our brain may indeed kick in. Creative thoughts can find unique and new solutions to problems with which we may have been struggling. It is a time when those “aha” moments may kick in.
- Writing Can Bring Thoughts of Greater Self-Esteem
When we feel that our lives have not been meaningful; when we feel that we have not accomplished much; when we feel that we cannot compare with the accomplishments of others; when we believe that we are just not worthy of appreciation of others, our self-esteem reaches a low point.
At times like these, writing is a critical method of changing our thinking. We should begin with childhood, making lists of any accomplishments during our younger years. We move forwards with lists of achievements, including the good things we did for others, the kindnesses we have shown, the children we are or have raised, the school accomplishments, the on-the-job tasks we have completed well, the times we have helped our friends. This list could be endless and could even take days to complete.
We may not be a business CEO; we may not always have enough money; we may believe our job is mundane, but we do it well, and we are a reliable employee.
In the end, you will be surprised at the pages and pages that you have composed. And you will understand that, while you may think your life rather meaningless, it has not been to others. You have touched many lives for good. Your self-esteem will be restored.
If you have not yet read The Butterfly Effect by Rachel McKenny, do so now. It will give you great insight into the impact you have had on others.
- Writing Will Give a Sense of Achievement
Most of us make lists of things that need to be accomplished – daily, weekly, and even long-term. Write every one of them down. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment as you can cross each of these items off. If you have had feelings of lack of accomplishment, this writing activity will certainly change your thought on that. And once you have that feeling of accomplishment, your thinking will transfer to other aspects of your life. There is a universal truth – success begets success.
- Writing Helps You Commit Your Thinking to Your Big Goals
When you write something down that you plan to do, you do make a type of mental commitment. But writing it down just once will probably not result in a change of thought. When you have a big goal, divide it into specific achievable steps that you can complete in shorter periods of time. And write those steps down every day until you can check them off. Pretty soon, your thinking will change. You know that big goal is actually achievable, as each step is completed and crossed off.
Writing serves many purposes. But for those of us who need a change in thinking, it is a critical activity. It relieves negative emotions; it provides cathartic experiences; it allows focus on achievements; it clears thinking; it promotes critical and creative thought processes; and it allows commitment to larger goals that improve the lives of you and those you love.
Author Bio: Dorian is a prolific writer for a number of online writing services, including Get Good Grade, and is one of the top paper writers for a number of other writing services. He is also a frequent blogger in areas of relationships and self-improvement. In his spare time, he uses his counseling degree to provide services to low-income clients.