As writers, we understand the rush we experience when working on our craft—the energy we feel when we get into a movement and then look up at the clock and see it’s an hour later and we’ve lost track of time. These are some of the best parts of writing. Recently, the mental health benefits of writing have stuck out to me. No matter what your topic is, you have the chance to improve your mental health while doing what you love.
Journaling is a great way to let out emotions, reflect on your day and yourself, and even place more gratitude into your life. Many therapists recommend journaling as a coping skill. Psychotherapist F. Diane Barth in an article on journaling for NBC News says: “[Journaling] helps you pay attention and put structure and organization to your thoughts, feelings, and ideas that might otherwise be causing anxiety or other stress.” By writing down emotions and events that happen in your day, you are journaling. When you put words on a page, they become easier to understand—instead of being jumbled up in your brain, they’re concisely out in front of you. If you are someone who’s more private and scared of talking to others about your emotions, your journal will always be there for you. (P.S. A journal will never judge you!)
Self-expression is one of the best activities for your mental health, especially when you are writing creatively. Maybe you’re working on a novel, poem, or short story. When you’re expressing yourself, you can learn more about yourself. For me, seeing patterns in my writing shows patterns in my thought processes. I notice when I can’t write concisely and smoothly, my anxiety is heightened at that moment. Many authors say they see much of themselves in every character they write. That makes total sense! Jennifer Niven, the author of All the Bright Places and Breathless, talked about her character Claude in Breathless in an interview with United By Pop. Niven said: “Technically, I guess I met Claude when I was her age. Because so much of Claude is me at eighteen.”
We write what we know. This can be therapeutic because you’re letting yourself be free and improving your self-awareness. Poetry can be especially beneficial because you are letting your feelings out in a healthy way. If you have trouble with a friend or significant other, you can write a poem about it. Even if you have “ugly” emotions, you can still make the poem artistic. A great example of this is “I Worried”, by Mary Oliver. In this poem, Oliver discusses her intense worries in a beautiful way.
Writing can be a relaxing activity. You’re able to calm down and focus on the task at hand. Days can get busy with work, school, social life, helping out at home, and more. Taking a break to do something you love can be beneficial. Even if you are in the middle of an intense scene in a story, you are able to take your mind off of yourself and your day by writing. Distractions are important with mental health. If you have many thoughts going on and you don’t know how to stop them, try picking up your pen and diving into a story. Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or anything else, you’re clearing your head.
Writing can build confidence, as well. Finishing a piece of art you are proud of builds confidence within you. Maybe you finished an entire manuscript—that’s impressive! Your self-esteem may rise knowing you’re dedicated and capable of doing hard work.
With everything going on in the world, many people struggle with their mental health. Writing is just one of the many coping skills you can use to deal with the hard parts of life. Never be ashamed of asking for help if you can no longer deal with it on your own. This last year and a half have been extra hard for everyone, so give yourself some love and rest. You deserve it! Put aside time every day to do what makes you happy. When life seems overwhelming, find somewhere quiet and bring a notebook. Writing will always be there when you need it.