Better your life

How to use writing as your free therapy

Writing has many more benefits than you think. In fact, besides being an art form, it is also a great way to overcome life’s difficulties. Writing therapy is a certified technique used by many professionals in the mental field.

But the best thing is precisely that it does not necessarily require the support of an expert but can be practised from the comfort of our own home.

What is written therapy

In short, this technique consists of writing down, preferably with pen and paper, what causes us pain, often stressful events or past traumas.

It is highly acclaimed precisely because it is free, accessible to anyone and more suitable for those who do not feel comfortable confiding their lives to a stranger.


Our body is an almost perfect machine and is constantly fighting for our survival and that of our species. Despite this, if we do not take care of it, just as one does with machines, after a while it will begin to decay to a point of no return.

Traumas are like rust and slowly, without us realising it, they tear our lives apart. Many studies have found links between problems of the mind and the health of the body.

Among these, I highlight the study by a social psychologist, James Pennebaker, who precisely examined the influence that writing can have on our complete well-being.

In this test, 45 psychology students were taken and asked to write about traumatic events and their feelings about them. The results were satisfying, in fact during the writing a higher blood pressure was found followed by quite sad and negative moods.

This is because, during and shortly after the experiment, the students found themselves reliving those painful moments and naturally this made them suffer.

Despite this, the results are extremely positive. In fact, all those who wrote and vented on paper had far fewer health-related visits in the following months than those who did not participate. This proves once again that pains in the body are often alarm bells, begging us to understand what is wrong with the most important element, the mind.

Why does it work?

For years it was believed that this type of therapy was very similar to others and therefore had the same mechanism. Accumulated stress can indeed become a burden on our bodies and when we express it in some way, we are able to get rid of it and live a more peaceful life.

But that is not the only point, studies have shown that, compared to other therapies, writing had greater health benefits for participants. It relieves anxiety and depression and gives enormous benefits.

My theory, also supported by mental health studies, is that writing not only allows us to express ourselves but also to analyse ourselves. It allows us to see what has happened to us in a new light and a different point of view.

It gives us the opportunity to take a moment to really think about how we feel and how these feelings affect our lives. And this really helps us to befriend ourselves and do what we really need to do – forgive ourselves.

Is this therapy like having a journal?

Not really. A journal often contains everyday events. The meeting with a friend, the school you go to or the new job opportunity. Often things are told in a diary, without rehearsing much or analysing how that thing made us feel.

People often write in a journal to keep memories alive, or to reflect on them. Written therapy, on the other hand, goes much deeper and is closer to the concept of shadow work.

writing therapy

If you are interested in trying this practice

here are my top tips

Don’t be afraid

It sounds like a simple thing, writing about your feelings, but it is not. It is perhaps one of the bravest things you can do. Especially at the beginning, you are like a sparkling wine to be opened, you need energy and dedication to uncork. And it will hurt.

Maybe you will cry and suffer and feel like screaming. And it will be perfect like that because it will mean that you are really facing your emotions, for the first time. At that point, you will be tempted to run away, close the door you opened and pretend nothing happened.

Fight against these instincts and go on, deeper and deeper, until your mind is a clear lake, ready to face life.

Don’t hold back

Those who are not used to talking about themselves and showing their emotions risk holding back even here. But that is the beauty of written therapy, you are completely alone.

No one can judge you, can hear you or can perceive you in any way. It is a moment between you and that piece of paper that is just waiting to receive the emotions you want to deliver.

The first step is to begin, to write the first sentence. And then everything will come by itself.

Don’t think about the writing

Personally, and it’s not just me saying this, I have horrible handwriting. Graphically speaking. And while practising writing as a form of therapy, I saw sheets full of words that I myself was struggling to read.

Moreover, given the speed at which I was putting pen to paper, I also found many grammatical errors. This initially bothered me a bit, I felt stupid and tried to write better the next time.

Fortunately, I realised quite quickly how pointless this idea was, because writing well and correctly was not at all the point of what I was doing. The purpose was to vent, narrate and empty myself of what was making me feel bad, and it didn’t matter if hieroglyphics came out to do it.

If you are like me, besides feeling sorry for you, I want to assure you that it is OK for the end result to be clumsy and meaningless signs. In fact, it is good. It means that in that moment you really opened up to yourself, you opened your heart and in your mind there was nothing else but your feelings.

If you find yourself doing writing therapy, there are no set rules, you choose.

Find a quiet, lonely place, pen and paper and write. When you are finished, you have many options:

  • keep that paper in a notebook
  • Set it on fire (only if you are an adult and careful not to hurt yourself)
  • Tear it up with a smile

Small additional tip; write freely on the paper, as if you were telling a story. In fact, this study shows that writing in a structured way may diminish or even nullify the benefits of teraupetic writing.

However, what you do with your mental health moments is your business, choose the option that will give your heart the most pleasure. Enjoy your therapy!

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