Writing and Healing
“My secret is that I have found the places within me that illness cannot touch.
I have learned to honor them.”
Writing Can Enhance your Physical and Mental Health by Helping You To:
- Open yourself to the hidden possibilities of your life. Writing is one way to listen to your deepest self and the patterns within you.
- Think more clearly.
- Feel more deeply.
- Monitor the state of your health. Keep a log book of treatment results, therapy sessions, symptoms, track the course of illness, disease, and pain. Identify trends, along with causes and effects. Note what seems to help, what makes things worse. Note reminders about medication and exercise. Note symptoms precisely and accurately at the time they occur. Chart your moods and levels of well being.
- Enhance communication with medical personnel. Remember the questions you want to ask. Frame the questions in a precise way. Rehearse difficult conversations in advance.
- Coach yourself through the rough patches. Imagine that you have a built-in coach to encourage you, push you onward, remind you what you need to do next, tell you that this is the hard part and that things will soon get better. Dialogue with yourself. Learn to become your own inner friend and supporter.
- Put pain in the background. Move discomfort out of the foreground of your experience so the pain doesn’t define you, doesn’t run your life, and doesn’t control your experience. Pain may not go away, but when the mind is fully engaged and focused elsewhere, distress is relegated to the back of the mind. The writing process may bring on a kind of flow and altered state where time ceases to exist when you are caught up in the creative process.
- Strengthen your immune system. Recent research suggests that writing about traumatic experiences can have a measurable positive effect on the immune system and improve Rheumatoid Arthritis and Asthma symptoms.
- Mobilize your inner and outer resources. Get in touch with your hidden strengths and resources. Make logistical plans to get into action to do what can be done to live the life of your dreams. Find a way to experience (actually or symbolically) the sweet rewards of moving toward your heart’s desires. Find ways to get the most out of your immune system by leading a richer, more fulfilled life.
- React with resilience. You can coach yourself through your writing to bounce back from disappointment, difficulty, and stress.
- Cultivate optimism. Optimistic people tend to take better care of their health, and optimism is correlated with good health. You can teach yourself to become more optimistic.
- Identify and stop unproductive patterns of thinking. Replace punishing self-talk with nurturing messages from and to your inner self. Practice cognitive therapy on yourself. (Cognitive therapy has been found to increase survival rates in Cancer and other serious diseases).
- Live more creatively. Create a more interesting life, even if only in your imagination. Unleash your dormant creativity by “playing” with writing. Ask yourself questions about how you could reach your goals creatively.
- Focus on the big issues: meaning, mission, the “now what” and “what next” instead of getting caught up in petty and mundane concerns or your past. Obstacles seem less daunting when viewed with perspective.
- Take positive action. We all have vague ideas and fantasies about how life could be made better. What is important is to take action to make our lives more the way we want them to be.
- Make wise decisions: Follow two or more scenarios to their logical conclusions. What are the better choices? Waiting, ripening, keep asking questions and gathering information. Realize that most decisions must be made with insufficient information.
- Remind yourself you have choices in every situation and about how you respond to the various positive and negative situations in your life.
- Practice self-compassion. Learn to become compassionate with yourself so you can experience yourself as a loving friend instead of “your own worst enemy.” Learn to take care of your physical and emotional needs. Only with self-compassion can you allow yourself to become accepting, kind, and loving toward others.
- Create inner alignment. Align the various parts of yourself so they’re moving in the same destinations instead of pulling you in various directions and creating inner conflict.
- Explore your depths. Navigate in a safe way those unknown parts of yourself that have the power to bless or curse you.
- Discover hidden patterns. Through rereading, discover your own previously hidden patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting. You may also identify patterns in outer situations and circumstances, and in others’ behavior.
- Develop self-discipline. By establishing a writing practice, your self-discipline can evolve from within instead of being imposed from the outside.