I have been writing in one way, shape, or form for many years, but it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I took upon doing so as a habit. I have found it to be extremely beneficial.
Now, I write every day. And, I do different kinds of writing, including stream of consciousness writing, creative writing, business writing, and these articles that I write weekly. I don’t do all types of writing every day, with the exception of stream of consciousness writing, which I do daily, ideally in the mornings. I learned the habit after reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I have found writing to be beneficial and studies support it. I will share some of the benefits of writing and provide encouragement for you to do the same.
Writing is Therapeutic
We all have issues. The nature of the issues varies but we all have things we want to improve, heal, and/or develop. Writing helps bring a voice to these issues and in time, may help us resolve, come to terms, or make peace with them. For instance, it can help us deal with the loss of a loved one and the grief that comes with it (Yates Kling, 2018).
A study conducted by Boston University showed that 16 male survivors of sexual abuse successfully used writing to make meaning of their experiences. Another study on cancer patients showed that expressive writing, along with other creative endeavors, helped them deal with their posttraumatic growth, among others (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).
Writing Has Health Benefits
Expressive writing, which is when we share our deepest thoughts and feelings with the screen or piece of paper, has been found to reduce anxiety, depression and blood pressure, lower pain and increase movement in those with rheumatoid arthritis, alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, boost immune function of HIV/AIDS patients, and improve lung function in asthma patients, among others (Delorosa, 2018).
Studies have found that creative expression, which includes creative writing along with music, painting, drawing, dancing, and other forms of artistic expression, reduces stress, including physical symptoms of stress such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood cortisol levels. It improves relaxation and psychological well-being, including self-esteem, positive identity, and a sense of quality of life (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).
Writing was reviewed in five different studies. One showed that 37 HIV patients had increased immune cell activity after writing about their emotions. Another showed that 102 patients suffering from chronic illness felt an improvement in their moods and a reduction in anger and pain after writing letters in which they expressed their anger. Three studies looked at fibromyalgia patients, and they found that writing helped them reduce pain, fatigue, negative moods, and depressed moods, and improve their sense of well-being, sleep, and psychological (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).
Writing Touches Our Soul
When I first read The Artist’s Way I was intrigued by a concept the book introduces of writing “morning pages” (Cameron, 2016). The purpose of morning pages is to write down our stream of consciousness, and to do it first thing in the morning, so as to make the most of our cognitive state in our waking hours. The purpose is to write down everything that comes to mind, without thinking, and without censoring.
This practice enables us to get everything out of our heads. At first, it feels awkward and the writing makes no sense. But after persisting for a few days, it becomes more purposeful and focused. We may find that our thoughts are clearer, we have released tension and worries, we are less stressed, and we have a calmer and more peaceful state of mind for the start of our day. At least, that is what happened to me. Others have found that this makes them more productive and less negative, angry, and chaotic (Cox, 2015).
As time passes, which may be a few weeks or months, the exercise transforms from a brain dump into a soul opening. I found that the more I wrote morning pages, the clearer my inner voice became. I would start the writing process thinking about a decision I had to make or a challenge that I was facing, and by the end of the writing I would have figured out the answer.
At first, I rationalized the answer, but the more I wrote, the more I let go of the need to analyze. As I did that, I found that the answers just appeared- what came across on the pages was my inner knowing or my gut. The key to getting there is to have patience and to let go of the need to control the outcome. “In time, these pages being to illuminate where our inner critic resides; how loud its authoritative voice drowns out that other far quieter, but infinitely more powerful voice, the voice of our soul” (Cox, 2015).
We do not all have to get into a daily writing habit to see the benefits. Even I don’t write morning pages any longer. I’ve made my daily writing ritual my own. I encourage you to do the same. Perhaps write once a week, a few times a week, or whenever inspired. Write about what you are grateful for, what you are feeling, what you are thinking, or decisions you have to make. Write about anything that comes to mind. But do start, and soon you will see the benefits.
Cameron, J. (2016). The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (25thAnniversary Edition). New York, NY: Penguin Random House.
Cox, V. (2015). Why morning pages could be your most powerful morning ritual. Elephant Journal. Retrieved on October 15, 2018 from https://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/12/why-morning-pages-could-be-your-most-powerful-morning-ritual/
Delarosa, S. (2018). 6 Science-backed ways to use writing as therapy. MindBodyGreen, MBG Mindfulness.Retrieved on October 15, 2018 from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/can-you-really-use-writing-as-therapy
Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254-263. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497
Yates Kling, D. (2018). This is why we should take the time to write. Elephant Journal. Retrieved on October 15, 2018 from https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/06/this-is-why-we-should-take-the-time-to-write/