Writing for mental health

“The primary reason for writing anything is to communicate with others, to stimulate interest or action from the reader. You may also use writing to help you to reflect on your experiences and learn from them.” (University of Nottingham)

People and authors write for very different reasons; to share knowledge, skills and expertise, helping to empower others. They may write their own memoirs, or other peoples’ histories and the tales of their adventurous lives. Or they may purely want to tell stories, created from their imagination; complete fiction. 

Whatever the reason, I would say for most authors it is generally a passion that drives you to take to pen and paper, or keyboard.

How is Lockdown affecting writers?

For some of my author friends, they have found it harder to write during this time, after initially thinking it would give them time to focus on their writing.

However, the reality is, that for some, the strangeness of the situation has taken a toll on their mental state, and they have lost focus.

Others have found the main difference being that they don’t have regular contact with other humans. They don’t have the chance to sit and watch ‘life’, and for many that removes some of their inspiration.

I have found it harder to focus on writing my first full-length book that is in progress, although I have written poetry. I’ve also regularly been writing blogs for both myself and other clients, for which I have a deadline. For this work, there is no excuse not to get it finished on time.

My biggest problem is, because I’m not seeing people, I feel like I’m on continual school holidays; I used to be a teacher, and can’t shake off that feeling of relaxation – not helped by the amazing sunny weather!

Mentally, I feel in a good place, and writing is something I enjoy, along with playing the piano, and photography. I am lucky, because I do have things to keep me occupied. 

How can writing help your mental health?

Writing can be cathartic, and for those of you feeling down, in a rut and depressed, it can be a good way to help lift your spirits.

Turning to something artistic can be of huge help, as participating in something that is natural and self-expressive can be liberating.  

Unlike many of the creative arts, with writing you don’t require any skill to get started- just pen and paper, and motivation.

‘A previous study suggested that expressive writing may even improve immune system functioning, although it may need to be sustained for the health benefits to continue’ (Murray, 2002).

Types of writing:

Several of these ideas are used for writing therapy, but can also be accomplished on your own.

  • Journaling –  a journal is personal and individual, and everyone will use it in a different way, but it is about expressing your feelings.  Write about your thoughts, emotions, without worrying about spelling or grammar, and write freely for about 20 mins.
  • Gratitude writing   – creates a sense of optimism. This could be a daily, or weekly journal.  Alternatively write letters of gratitude to someone specific; they don’t need to be sent.
  • Free expressive writing -which could be poetry or prose. After writing, you see things from a different perspective.

8 writing prompts – if you can’t think what to write about: 

by Psychologist Margarita Tartakovsky (taken from her list of 30. Web link below).

  1. My favourite way to spend the day is…
  2. If I could talk to my teenage self, the one thing I would say is…
  3. Make a list of 30 things that make you smile.
  4. The words I’d like to live by are…
  5. I really wish others knew this about me…
  6. What always brings tears to your eyes?
  7. Using 10 words, describe yourself.
  8. Write a list of questions to which you urgently need answers.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”   

Anne Frank