How Writing Can Assist Sufferers of Mental Illness

Today’s guest post is by Cassandra Hawkings

 “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” —Virginia Woolf

 Like medicine and professional therapy, writing is the perfect choice for assisting sufferers of mental illness.

Do you have a relative or friend who has a mental illness? I have. My father has depression. A few years ago, he had a nervous breakdown. I remember waking up on a Sunday morning to my father crying and shouting.

In the months and years that followed, the situation was difficult to live with on a day-to-day basis. He would talk to no one except my sister, and it was painful.

When I was upset, I used to type out a few sentences in a Word document. It would help me feel stronger. It felt unbelievable to be able to get my frustrations off my chest. Even now, it is still difficult. However, I’ve managed to dive through it.

Millions of people deal with mental illness on a daily basis. Whether you face living with a loved one who is struggling or you might be dealing with it yourself, journaling can help.

There are different methods that can aid those suffering from mental illness. Many people write to express how they feel and what they experience. It can be a comfort to put individual thoughts down on paper. By doing this, the world might seem a little brighter.

There are numerous benefits that come from writing out your thoughts:

  • It can assist in managing anxiety issues
  • It can reduce building stress
  • It can help depression sufferers cope with their condition

Journal Therapy

In addition, there is a therapy known as “Journal Therapy.” The function of journal therapy is to log life experiences. The experience is insightful just as it is therapeutic. This is opposed to writing in a diary as an expression of creativity.

Moreover, writing down thoughts can improve a person’s mood.  It will also help control symptoms of mental illness by slowing or calming the symptoms. Writing is ideal for assisting a person to prioritize her problems.

This applies to fears and concerns. It even gives the opportunity to promote positive self-talk. This is perfect for anyone who might have personal concerns and should get them out into the open.

Hence, there is no point in writing stuff down once and forgetting it. If you’re serious when it comes to journaling your experiences, there’s a simple way to do it. Break the method down into smaller steps.  This is will keep you motivated and eventually become a habit.

Studies have shown that writing by hand can aid in learning. Instead of journaling on the computer, consider picking up a pen and pad of paper or a bound notebook to jot down these thoughts. Writing by hand will build up motor memory in the brain.

Below are a few suggestions that can be followed to correctively formulate the process. By doing this, you’ll develop it into a habit for the greater benefit of your health.

Find the Time

Finding time to journal can be difficult if you have a busy lifestyle. Try to find a moment during the day when life is less hectic than usual. It doesn’t matter if you only have a few minutes to write so long as a tiny amount is written at a time.

Aim for a set time each day to journal. If you need to, set an alarm. Once you establish a habit and a time frame for writing, keep at it. You’ll thank yourself later for it.

Make It Easy on Yourself

If you’re not always at home and around a computer, drop your thoughts and feelings into a notebook. If you carry a bag, keep a notebook or a pad of paper and a pen with you at all times. You never know you when you might need to write things down. If you forget your notebook and you’re at a restaurant or café, write your thoughts on a napkin and enter them into your journal later.

Write Whenever You Feel You Need To

If you’re feeling stressed, drop your thoughts into your journal. No journal ever follows a proper structure. Writing down your innermost thoughts provides an arena in which only you are required to play a part. So don’t worry about making mistakes or what other people might think if they read it. It concerns you and no one else.

You Don’t Have to Share

Consider writing as your personal oasis. You don’t have to share your journal with anyone else. If you ever feel you need to share something you’ve written, choose one person you know can be trusted. Also, be sure to choose a person who won’t judge you for what you write.

Other Benefits

There is no doubt that writing a journal can assist in strengthening your resolve. It can also help in overcoming your mental health issues.

Another benefit of journaling is that getting issues down on paper can help you sleep at night. It will also soothe your mind. It relieves your troubling thoughts and assists in getting them down on paper.

Journal therapy can get your thoughts and feelings under control.  It won’t cure your problems. Yet, it can help you process and work through the emotions you might feel throughout the day. And it can often spark insights and new ways of looking at your situation. Why not give it a try?

Done any journaling lately? If so, has it helped your mental or emotional state? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Cassandra “C. J.” Hawkings is a freelance writer specializing in screenwriting. She runs a Tumblr blog in which she shares her experiences (and adventures) in her writing endeavors. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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  1. Thank you for this, you’re right, using the computer is not necessarily the best way to write out pain. I can’t finish editing my completed book simply because of grief & depression. Last week I started hand writing, loads of mistakes but as you say this doesn’t matter no one else will see – it’s between me and me. I have book marked this advice. Thank you again.

  2. I’ve discovered something very interesting about writing. It therapeutic on a lot of levels. While writing “The Lawman”, I found that I was taking a lot of the pain and anguish cases had caused me, and working them out on paper.

    Oddly, I found I’d put an awful lot of that to bed by the time I was finished.

    Thanks for the article, it’s right on the money.

  3. Thank you so much for this advice! I used to do this kind of thing a lot, but I stopped. I have been suffering from anxiety and depression so I stopped writing for awhile, but now I am trying to heal and get better, so I’ve been doing journaling a lot more now and it really does help me to write down my feelings and thoughts. I feel better after doing it! I need to do this more often! Thanks!

  4. I’ve suffered from depression since I was a child. While it hasn’t gone away – and probably never will – it doesn’t rule my life anymore. I attribute part of that to my frequent journaling, which I’ve done since 1983. I used to record my sentiments in spiral-bound notebooks. But a severe injury to my right arm 4 years ago forced me to convert to a digital journal. It’s still too difficult to hand-write anything. The end result is the same: I’m still alive and I still have my dignity. I believe most people suffer from some sort of depression throughout their lives; many are just more adept in dealing with it.

    Depression seems to hit writers and other artists more severely, but in truth, I believe we’re just more willing to admit it. And we cope with this burden through our works. It only makes sense. Artists capture and express the full range of the human experience, so it shouldn’t be surprising that we all seem to be manic-depressive, bipolar or whatever label society feels is necessary to describe it. While depression and other mental ailments are serious, it’s merely a part of being human. There’s always a downside to something. Understanding and coping with it, along with appreciating the better things in life, gets us from one day to the next.

  5. This is so true and something I recommend to clients who come to me for spiritual counselling. The procedure you outline here is very similar to what I suggest to clients and also adult students who are upset and unable to find a way ‘out’ so to speak. Journal therapy is similar to what I suggest to folks – keep a word dump diary, which may also contain poetic writing which is immensely powerful.

  6. Thank you for your uplifting and informative post. I have lived with depression and anxiety since adolescence. I have journaled intermittently since age twelve. Since September 2002, I have journaled almost 6700 handwritten pages. I also write the date and time of each entry. Journaling has seen me through some tough life experiences. I echo your words about the therapeutic value of journaling. One can also process journaling with a professional therapist as well as process therapy sessions in the journal.

  7. Thank you for this compassionate look at mental illness. I live with insomnia and take meds to help me sleep but it is not a perfect solution. I really value your suggestions on journaling and will give it a try, to lift my spirits. Thanks again.

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