Why writing is good for your mental health

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We've highlighted some of the ways writing can make a positive difference to your wellbeing on World Mental Health Day.

There are all sorts of reasons people enjoy creative writing, but writers don’t always appreciate that their mental health can benefit from it in many ways. Writing can be a tool for understanding yourself and the world around you. It can provide structure, give you a safe space to express yourself and allow you to channel your imagination creatively. Here are ten reasons why writing can have a positive effect on your mental health.

1. Writing is a brilliant mindfulness tool

Expressing what you think and how you feel in writing enables you to clarify your thoughts and understand your feelings. It enables you to be ‘in the moment’ and focus on particular things that need your attention while freeing your mind from distractions.

2. Writing helps you clear your head

Writing allows you to express yourself on paper with censoring your words. It allows you a safe space where you can put your thoughts and feelings, no matter how difficult or unruly, without worrying about what anyone else might think.

3. Writing helps you to understand yourself better

If you keep a regular journal, it can it can help you discover patterns in your thinking that might be useful in helping you manage your mental health – for instance, if you have a cycle of good days where you feel well followed by a period of heightened sensitivity before a dip or crash.

4. Writing can help you come to terms with things

Writing may help you find words for things that are difficult for you to speak about – even to yourself. Putting your experiences on the page can help you to find understanding about issues that have affected you. Be careful here though – this is writing at a very deep level and is the kind of writing that must only be undertaken when you are absolutely ready to do it. It can’t be forced and it has to come from you.

5. Writing transforms raw material into something of value

Channelling your creativity and expressing your unique voice in writing may help you to transform difficult feelings and emotions into poetry or prose. Creating a piece of finished work is a huge achievement that should bolster your sense of self-worth – you are a person who can create, and turn your experience into literature.

6. Writing helps you focus your energies

Rather than bottle them up or have anxious thoughts on an internal loop, you can channel your feelings and emotions onto the page. The shift in emphasis from you to your creativity may give you a welcome mental space and provide positive feelings of wellbeing.

7. Writing provides you with structure and goals

Committing yourself to a regular writing practice – daily if possible – provides structure and routine and gives a shape to the day. Turning up for that practice counts as a massive achievement on the days when we don’t feel capable of getting out of bed. Setting writing targets and achieving them will enforce self-worth.

8. Writing gives you a break from yourself

Depending on what you are writing, writing also gives you ‘time out’ from yourself. You can be in someone else’s story rather than your own, and create them possibilities for change that might not seem accessible to you yourself. Expanding on this, creating possibilities for your characters and fictional situations might help you believe that you can do that in your non-writing life too.

9. Writing helps you cope

Writing things down helps you understand them better. Writing down a list of tasks that need to be completed, or targets that you want to meet, makes them easier to visualise, and therefore more achievable. Writing helps you break things down into manageable parts and see things more clearly.

10. Writing lifts your spirits

Writing for pleasure and doing it because you love it will boost your spirits. Expressing yourself in writing can enhance your wellbeing and boost your confidence.