I have written before about the power of journaling, and expressive writing in particular, to support us to work through our emotional and practical problems. Today, I thought I’d write a little more about how that works.
When we write expressively about events or experiences in our lives, the right side of the brain – the rational part – is engaged in finding the words to express what happened/ our experiences and how we feel about them. While we are focused on this, the left hemisphere – the creative part – is freed of the usual control and inner censor it is under, and from this arises unexpected ideas and images to arise out of our subconscious.
This can be a therapeutic tool to support our understanding of our lives and problems. It is particulaly useful in this way as a therapeutic tool in conjunction with counselling or coaching.
It can also be a great source of creative ideas to support other sorts of writing we might wish to engage in (e.g. writing to be published or writing to coach ourselves in career edeavours).
In addition, research shows it can help us regulate our emotions. For example, in one study brain scans on volunteers showed reduced activity in the amygdala (the area of the brain associated with controlling the intensity of our emotions) during expressive writing exercises (you can read more about that here). This means that you can use writing to calm yourself and gain more control over strongly felt emotions if you need to.
When you set out to write a personal journal of this sort, it’s important to remeber these three things before you start:
- Switch off your inner critic – no one else is going to read this so it doesn’t matter if it makes sense, conforms to rules of grammar, punctuation or spelling
- Write honestly and from the heart – no one is going to read this but you and you will get more from telling the complete truth to the page, setting your innermost thoughts and feelings free
- Think about why you’re writing today – what do you want to work on? Are you wanting to calm down, explore something from your past or solve a particular problem? As you come to the end of what you write, it will be helpful to take a moment to look back over what you’ve written and focus on what you’ve learnt from the writing. When you write each entry, finish with at least one sentence about what you’ve noticed or learnt from what’s on the page before you.
If you’d like to know more, you can contact me or there are writing prompts scattered throughout this blog. If you feel like you would like to try this in conjunction with counselling, please get in contact with me (my details are here).