Writing as a therapy. The healing power of writing during COVID-19.
The impacts of the COIVD-19 outbreak and resulting physical distancing, lockdowns and isolation can make us all feel anxious, stressed, and worried. This troublesome virus has been wreaking havoc across the globe for two years, with no sign of stopping soon. Just when we think it’s getting under control, it rears its head in an updated form, continuing the inability for our lives to return to normal. It appears a clever little ‘thing,’ doesn’t it?
According to biologists, viruses don’t have brains. There is also debate among the scientific community that viruses are not even living things as they can’t survive outside of their host.
While we won’t dissect that argument here, it is extraordinary that such seemingly insignificant ‘things’ can so significantly impact the lives of sophisticated, complex organisms. Such as human beings.
Affecting not only our physical health but also our mental health. Our mind and body health are not two separate categories but are closely interrelated.
What has this got to do with writing?
Writing has been around since humans first developed language skills thousands of years ago. It is known to have therapeutic effects on both physical and mental health.
As COVID-19 continues to take its toll on our mental health, the power of self-expression through words becomes more important than ever before.
The famous English novelist Graham Greene once said that ‘writing is therapy’. I agree. I found one way of keeping myself mentally stable during the weeks and months of lockdown while we all battled it out with the virus was to keep a journal. This allowed me to express emotions, organise my thoughts, and record memories. It was also quite relaxing.
The University of Rochester Medical Centre suggests that journaling, or writing down our thoughts (especially daily) can help with:
- reducing stress
- managing anxiety
- coping with depression
Journaling helps us with these problems by enabling us to prioritise our fears and concerns and reaveals the triggers that make us anxious and fearful. In addition, it provides us with an opportunity to give ourselves positive feedback.
Journaling is also a wonderfully creative activity that encourages the creative side of our brain to flourish, be inquisitive and expand. Journaling shifts our focus from our troubles which results in creating a positive difference in our daily well-being. In short, we turn our mindset from negative to positive!
So how is using a journal as therapy different to keeping a diary?
When you think of journaling, you may automatically imagine a young pre-teen girl, laying on her bed with a fluffy pink diary, using a pen with scented ink to write about the annoying boy in her class. That’s not journaling. That’s an adolescent diary.
Journal therapy is a more reflective approach to daily writing. Our internal thoughts and feelings can be captured and questioned, bringing a sense of self-inquiry and enhancing self-awareness and insight, leading to personal growth.
Here’s a helpful tip to get started. Use this acronym for ‘write’:
W: What? What do you want to write about? Your thoughts, feelings, problems, goals.
R: Reflect. Use mindfulness here to focus on those thoughts and feelings
I: Investigate. This is tied in with R. Keep attuned to what you’re writing and how it makes you feel. If you start to run off on a tangent, bring yourself back to W (What you’re writing)
T: Time. Write for at least 5 minutes. More if possible. The longer, the better, but if you are short on time, 5 minutes is perfect. Something is better than nothing.
E: Examination. Read what you’ve just written. You may have surprised yourself with your words. You may have an ‘aha’ moment and then steer yourself towards a course of action. Or you could have just uncovered a deep pain or great joy you didn’t know you had.
The practices of mindfulness and journaling are both excellent ways for us to process everything we’re experiencing while learning how to manage our emotions better in the face of this pandemic.