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Personal Development

How Writing Can Improve Your Mental & Physical Health

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The benefits of writing extend beyond the way it creatively engages the intellect. Writing can be an emotionally rewarding way of letting go of pent up stress and sorrow. It’s good to control and override stressful emotional impulses but it serves no benefit if we keep them inside of us.  Exercise or talking to loved ones about how you feel can help in this regard, but you may find yourself in a situation where you might not have a voice to hear you or you prefer to keep how you feel to yourself but still need a way to release your emotions. Writing in this case can be very helpful.

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Writing helps you enter a flow state in which all the built up emotions rush out of your heart and mind and onto the paper. When you write vividly and honestly about your experiences and how you feel, a gradual collection of emotional experiences will be documented throughout your life. Looking back at the journal, you will be able to see patterns of how certain emotional conflicts arise, giving you insight into the source and nature of your malfunctions, and the environment you are putting yourself in that is increasing those conflicts. You’ll be in a position to make a better decision about whether certain behavior patterns are serving you or not, as well as determine which people and things are causing those problems in your life.

I call this process a wisdom journal because, looking back on your writings, you will have a more thorough understanding and appreciation for who you have become as a result of your past toils and hiccups. This journal will document the gradual strengthening of your mind and the evolutionary process of who you have become.

This will only work if you are honest about yourself and you truly document your contributions to the scenarios that made you feel a certain way. Your mistakes are all a part of the process of becoming a better person so it is important to document the mistake and the overall lesson learned from it. This is a very personal documentation of your journey, so if you are worried about other people finding and reading it, you can write it in a way that only you can understand, using metaphors and language that would appear vague to others but trigger crystal clear memories within you.

The physical and mental health benefits of writing include long-term reductions in stress levels and depressive symptoms. A 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing a day was enough to make a difference in the overall stress levels of participants.

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Participants were less likely to have illnesses and less likely to experience trauma as a result of writing about traumatic, emotional, and stressful events. Less time was spent in the hospital along with a drop in blood pressure and liver functionality.

Remarkably, another study suggests that writing can help physical wounds heal faster. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. For 3 days the participants wrote about upsetting events or daily activities for 20 minutes each day. After two weeks (researchers wanted to wait to make sure any initial negative feelings stirred up by recalling upsetting events had passed), all the subjects had a biopsy on the arm and then their healing was tracked over the subsequent twenty one days. 11 days after the procedure, 76% of the group that chose to write were healed completely while 58% of the control group had not yet recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped the participants come to terms with the events, therefore reducing distress.

People who suffer from a long term disease or illness can benefit from writing. Studies have revealed that people who suffer from asthma have fewer attacks if they keep a journal of how they are feeling compared to those who don’t. AIDS patients who write have been proven to show higher T-cell counts because they are under less stress. Cancer patients who write are less affected by stress and depression and have an improved quality of life because they are more optimistic.

James W. Pennebaker has been conducting research on the healing nature of writing for several years at the University of Texas at Austin. “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.”

Pennebaker suggests that the act of expressive writing enables one to take a step back and more objectively analyze their life. Rather than obsess over a life event in an unhealthy manner, one can focus on moving forward. Moving forward with less anxiety about the future reduces stress; it removes the blockage that is holding one back from being happier.

It seems like writing can be akin to exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Our emotional well-being is just as important as our physical well-being and writing is a great way to keep ourselves emotionally fit. Thoughts and emotions are like little life forms in our body. They want to live as long as possible and run the show. When we write, we are getting those thoughts and emotions out of our body and into the zoo. Our journals are the zoo of experiences that make us who we are.

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Consciousness

11 Things Everybody Should Let Go of Before 2020 – Easier Said Than Done Of Course

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    2020 is coming up, and below are some personal transformation tips to explore and reflect on.

  • Reflect On:

    Why is new years always a time for resolutions? Can we begin taking the steps to implement resolutions on our lives that we feel inspired to make starting right now?

The new year is almost here and it’s often a time when we all start to think about what we want to change for the next year. I’ve never been much a fan of the whole cliche of changing because of the new year, but why not embrace it as a time where we can reflect at least? That usually leads to change!

Do a quick reflection right now. Do you feel like you have followed your deeper knowings and desires this past year? Have you engaged your passions much? Do you feel you got caught up in the stresses of life quite often? Did you feel judgement, negative self talk and anger were a big part of your days? Reflecting on how you’ve felt over your year and being honest with yourself about it gives you the chance to know how to adjust and move forward from this moment forward whether it be the new year or not.

I’ve found in my own life that if I don’t pay attention to how I feel, what I create, what’s playing out in my life and take responsibility for it, it doesn’t change. It stays the same, I experience the same emotions or stagnant feelings, and I don’t move forward. But the moment I decide to take it into my own hands, I see how much I’m not a victim to what happens.

11 Things To Let Go of Before the New year

1. Stop all the negative self talk – It’s first because it’s probably one of the most important. The more we talk poorly about ourselves, to ourselves or others, the more we disempower ourselves and empower all the things we wish to adjust about ourselves. Observe it, take note of it, and kick it. It’s not helping you.

2. Choose one bad eating habit and kick it! – Taking care of and fuelling your vessel is one of the most important things we can do in life to stay mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy. Pick one of your worst eating habits and aim to cut it out completely in 3 months. Whatever it might be, be honest with yourself and make it happen. Then take on the next bad eating habit in 3 months.

3. Let go of chasing ‘success’ – So often we put up goals or plans for ourselves yet have this tiny limited scope of what success is. Next thing you know we bring stress, worry and fear into the equation throughout the whole journey because we may not be totally in line to hit this pin prick point of what success looks like to us. Instead, do your best to take the steps needed to get to where you want to go, but let go of the lure of success and what it looks like and means. There’s no such thing as failure. (more)

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4. Kick the idea that you cannot achieve or follow what’s in your heart – So often we have our ideas of what we are excited or passionate about, but let it go because we think we can’t do it or because it’s unrealistic. Instead of believing every word of that, take ONE step. One step towards making engaging your passion or exploring a dream. The one step will lead to the next and the next, but you have to take the first one. Plan out that first step and take it! A quick side note to this, be sure to reflect on making sure that your dreams are actually yours, and not just what your parents, society or friends are telling you to chase and go after.

5. Let go of the idea that you should run from your problems – We often get into this mentality that we just need to “get over it.” In theory, this sounds sorta good, you move on from things that happen in the past or something to that effect. But by just forgetting about it, did we really move on? No, it gets triggered again later or lies dormant as a resented event etc. Instead, let’s face our problems and truly move past them. Journal about it, talk to someone else about it. Put the cards on the table to someone who cares about you and who can help you move past it. Pick someone who will see the bigger picture and be honest with you. You have all it takes to move past what challenges you.

6. Stop comparing yourself to others – This is a big one. So often we are looking at others and using what they have, do or are to compare it against us and make up a story. This whole game can make us sad or feel down about ourselves or it can feed our ego in a big way. Let it go, respect everyone’s journey, including your own and stop the need to compare yourself to others.

7. Stop judging others – Judging other people can become a habit and an addiction. It’s like something we can’t stop doing sometimes! Take a moment the next time you judge someone and observe it. Ask yourself why you did it, how did it make you feel? Etc. Make a conscious effort to stop. (more)

8.  Stop the blame game – Blaming and pointing fingers when it comes to our challenges or what happens to us doesn’t allow us to look at and observe how we might have created or aligned with an experience to help make it happen. I’m not saying there’s nothing others can do to hurt you, I’m simply saying take responsibility for how you feel and don’t even point blame, it doesn’t help us.

9. Stop worrying and trying so hard to fit in and be accepted –  This is something far too many of us do just to save face and not be “the weird one.” The reality is, it’s more ‘weird’ to be a version of yourself that isn’t genuine or real simply because you want to be accepted by others. It’s a choice you can’t maintain forever and the longer it goes the more uncomfortable you will feel. Be you, accept yourself, be genuine and don’t try to make others do the same when. Let it happen. Trust.

10. Let go of the need to control everything – Sometimes we can’t take a step forward in anything because we don’t know all the answers or all the variables. This is our obsession with control sometimes. Yes, observe a situation and make the best choices available to you, but don’t worry so much about needing to control or know every detail about it. Learn to leave things up to trust and knowing that things will work out as they need to. This doesn’t mean be reckless, just that you don’t need to control everything, person and detail.

11. Stop procrastinating – This one goes with everything on the list. Stop putting it all off. Whatever it may be. The changes listed above, the hobby you want to, the career you want to explore, or the thing you want to tell to someone important to you. Stop putting it off and just do it!

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Consciousness

Sympathy vs. Empathy? Brené Brown Explains The Crucial Difference

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    There is a difference between sympathy and empathy — although many of us don't realize it, in an attempt to help we may unknowingly be making things worse for our loved ones.

  • Reflect On:

    When someone is hurting, we often try to "fix" the situation. What if we just sat with others who are struggling . and allow them to feel their feelings and offer them the space to do so?

For the most part we strive to be there for our friends and family members during difficult times. However we don’t always realize that in an effort to assist, often using positive reinforcement, or comparison techniques we might actually be making things worse. Sometimes, we are unintentionally showing up in all the wrong ways for our loved ones. It’s important to know the difference between sympathy and empathy and how these reactions could either create more pain from unmet needs for those who are struggling or allow the space for a deeper connection and understanding by offering the space to others to feel their feelings.

Brené Brown is an expert on the topics of vulnerability, shame, courage and empathy. She has written 5 New York Times Bestsellers and offers us all a deeper insight to the potential for much deeper authentic connection with others and to ourselves as well. The following video contains a cute little cartoon paired up with Brené’s words describing the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Sympathy Vs. Empathy


“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ~ Brené Brown

It’s funny how we think we are being helpful, but as it turns out we are unknowingly brushing off the feelings of others. Offering sympathy instead of empathy is similar to when we tell people to “think positive,” as it bypasses actually allowing ourselves to feel our emotions. When our loved ones are having a hard time with something, we are quick to try and fix or change the situation instead of just allowing it to be.

It’s as if we are all just so afraid of letting the pain be there, that we try to brush it off as quickly as possible. Unfortunately as described in the video, this isn’t actually helping, but providing a temporary band-aid instead. In turn, the people who are in pain often don’t feel emotionally met and can feel even more upset, even though they know you have good intentions. To be fair, for the most part we haven’t been taught these emotional skills so many of us are lacking in that department.

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The Importance Of Feeling Our Feelings

This is a good reminder to not only allow others the space to feel their feelings without trying to change them, but for yourself as well — to give yourself the time and space that you need to feel what’s happening inside of you.

If something comes up, and emotion is starting to build up inside of you, instead of grabbing your phone, eating something, or using a substance — try feeling it fully instead! It can be very helpful to label the emotion you’re feeling, i.e. I feel hurt right now.

Then feel it, feel it fully, cry if you need to, feel where it hurts in your body, do whatever you need to do to allow yourself to actually feel the emotion.It will help to process and release it, that way you won’t have to hold onto it, or store it in your body.

As a good friend once told me,

“See what there is to see, feel what there is to feel and you will heal. “

This might sound simple, and that’s because it is! It’s a lot easier to process and feel our emotions than to stuff them down and ignore them, which inevitably will cause more pain and suffering down the road.

Feeling our feelings, who would have thought? 😉

Much Love

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An art piece and lunar calendar all in one. This calendar features moon phases for every day of the month for the entirety of 2020.

Hologrpahic foil set on a dark 11" x 11" poster makes the moon's phases shimmer as light strikes them in this unique art piece.

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Consciousness

Negative Thinking Can Be An Addiction – Here’s How How You Can Break The Cycle

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    We all think negative thoughts on a regular basis as our minds are wired to do so. This is a habit that we can gain control over, the first step is awareness.

  • Reflect On:

    Negative thoughts tend to repeat themselves over and over. The first step to overcoming this addictive behavior is to become aware of these thought patterns. The only way out is through.

Have you ever noticed how much time you spend thinking negative thoughts? Either dwelling on events of the past or ruminating about the future, these thoughts seem to infiltrate our minds and feed off themselves and can even become addictive.

Most of us would claim that we do want happiness, yet over and over again we choose suffering; and this isn’t to say that we should merely stop these negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Only thinking positive thoughts could be considered spiritual bypassing and won’t bring us to our desired happiness either. We continuously return to our suffering because in our minds we are trying to make the negative experiences come out a different way, even though this is not possible.

In an effort to figure out how to let go of our pain, we end up grasping onto it.

From Psychology Today, author Nancy Colier states,

“Pain is also profoundly intertwined with our sense of identity. We remind ourselves of our pain as a way of keeping alive our personal narrative, our story of me, what’s happened to me, and my life. We’re deeply attached to our stories of suffering; you could say we love our pain. As a result, we’re reluctant to let it go, to stop bringing it back into the present moment, even when it’s no longer useful or active. To do so would be to lose touch with who we believe we fundamentally are, what makes us us. “

Learn To Feel The Feelings The Painful Thoughts Bring

In the short term, it may be easier to think over and over again about our painful memories, embarrassing moments, wondering “what if?” But eventually we will become these thoughts and believe we are those thoughts. They will just come back again and again and again until we can learn how to truly let them go. The mind will go through great lengths to avoid actually feeling our pain, perhaps in an effort to protect us, which we can potentially have gratitude for. Perhaps we can even choose to say: thank you ego/mind for protecting me, but I’d like to explore these feelings that are inside of me.

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So What Can We Do?

One might feel as though they wish they could just stop these negative thoughts altogether, but until they are acknowledged, these thoughts won’t stop. Perhaps in reading this article, you will remember or gain the awareness to notice just how repetitive some of your thoughts are. Next time your mind gets stuck you can say “No, I’m not going there right now,” but be sure to notice any feelings that come up at the same time.

We can practice mindfulness and separate our thoughts from ourselves. Instead of identifying deeply with the thought, we can choose to be the mere observer, the one who is noticing that the thought is happening. So instead of “I’m so stupid, I can’t believe I didn’t jump at that opportunity I was given, typical me, always too afraid to take a leap,” or whatever it may be, we can step back from our thought and say, “I notice that I am having a thought that I am not good enough, now I can observe where this thought is coming from and identify the feelings that are attached to it, feel them fully, and let them pass.”

The Only Way Out Is Through…

If you want to begin breaking these negative thought cycles of the mind, the first thing to realize is that the only way out is through, and if we wish to truly end these thoughts and let go of this pain we are carrying, then we in fact need to face them directly and not just continuously dwell on them.

The only way to do that is to actually feel the feelings and emotions that the painful thoughts are bringing up. Identify how the thoughts are making you feel, even say, “I feel sad about ______ .” Then, you don’t need to think or say anything at all, you can just allow the feeling to be felt, in all its intensity, and maybe you cry, maybe you start laughing uncontrollably, or maybe nothing happens at all. When you give your feelings and emotions the space to be acknowledged and felt — and practice loving kindness and compassion to yourself — these feelings and even those negative thoughts will become quieter and quieter. Because as stated earlier, “the only way out is through.”

This Takes Practice

Please be gentle with yourself, and don’t kick yourself if you can’t grasp this right away, as you could be trying to break through decades worth of addiction to these negative thought patterns. Having awareness is the very first step towards dealing with this. So, if you can begin to simply notice these repetitive thought patterns, this is an excellent first step! Over time it will become easier and easier and soon you will be able to separate yourself from your thoughts, become the observer, and allow yourself to feel your feelings, in all of their glorious intensity, and eventually be able to let them go completely.

You got this.

Holographic 2020 Lunar Calendar

An art piece and lunar calendar all in one. This calendar features moon phases for every day of the month for the entirety of 2020.

Hologrpahic foil set on a dark 11" x 11" poster makes the moon's phases shimmer as light strikes them in this unique art piece.

Buy yours here!
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