Writing down our emotions

in Features

If you are confused, overwhelmed, or don’t know where to start, it might help to write down how you are feeling. 

Describing how you’re feeling and thinking might also help you to find information that’s more useful to your situation right now.

You can email your answers to yourself once you have finished. It might be helpful to reflect on what you have written down later, or use it to help you find information that is most useful to you right now. 

This is completely anonymous, you don’t need to share it with anyone, and everything you write down will be erased as soon as you close the window.

The pandemic allowed many of us to uptake new hobbies and pursue existing interests – but there seems to be one activity which the nation is taking increasing interest in. 

Research from leading biographer StoryTerrace reveals that nearly 5 million Brits want to write their own book in 2021, and it seems the incentive for doing so is creating traction outside of the literary world, now widely appealing to the everyday consumer. 

Rutger Bruining who is the CEO of Story Terrace, sheds light on why writing and journaling have become so popular.

Nostalgia increases our happiness

Looking back at past memories and life moments has become commonplace over the course of the past year, offering us a form of escapism from the pandemic. And while reflecting on the past can be an intellectual activity, nostalgia is also an emotional one. Memory is about recalling the facts of a past event; nostalgia is about recalling how it felt to be there. A 2013 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that engaging in nostalgia led people to feel more optimistic about the future. Nostalgia is also related to higher self-esteem, happiness, and feelings of closeness to loved ones – engaging in past memories evoke these feelings for us, boosting our overall mood.

The impact of journaling on our mental health

The act of writing in a journal to record your innermost thoughts yields a whole host of benefits when it comes to our mental health. It can better our mood, increase our sense of wellbeing, and even lead to better working memory. In some cases, journaling is “prescribed” as a way to reduce PTSD symptoms or to help people suffering from depression and anxiety. However, you don’t have to be suffering to benefit from journaling – any time spent writing your thoughts helps your brain to get better at regulating your emotions. And a biography is like a journal on steroids!

Self-reflection is key to personal growth

If there’s one overarching condition of modern life – and one we can all relate to – it’s busyness. We move from email to email or meeting to meeting with little time to pause and think about our lives and their meaning — a situation that’s only been made worse by the distractions of smartphones. Yet Harvard researchers have found that making time for self-reflection is a crucial component of learning. Writing a biography is the ultimate exercise of self-reflection, as you aren’t just thinking about a day’s work, but your life as a whole. 

Alison Hitchcock is the co-founder of From Me to You, a charity that encourages writing letters for patients undergoing cancer treatment. Here, Alison explains the power of writing down our feelings:

How can writing down emotions help our mental and physical health?

Writing, especially by hand,  gives us the opportunity to slow down and reflect, and this is especially so with writing a letter as we try to put our thoughts and feelings in order,  to convey them to someone else. Research tells us that writing letters can increase levels of contentedness and lower instances of depression. A letter is an opportunity to share with another, to have a conversation, and that conversation is as much between the writer and the paper as it is between the writer and reader.

Is writing down our feelings a positive way of expressing ourselves for everyone?  

For some people drawing will be a positive way of expressing themselves, for others singing, for others talking, but writing is so accessible for so many people. At the letter writing charity From Me to You we encourage people to connect with loved ones living with cancer via a letter, often giving them the opportunity to say in writing the things they struggle to say face to face.

Is it helpful to write every day or should we journal as and when we feel the need to?

Writing should never feel pressurised so doing it when you feel like it will always have the best impact. The physicality of writing, holding the pen, connects with our neural pathways, heightens creativity and stimulates emotions buried away.

One question is should the writer ever share their thoughts with others or is it more impactful if we write solely for ourselves? Writing is a wonderfully intimate way to connect with others without imposing or requiring of them an immediate response. During the pandemic so many people have come to understand the meaning of being isolated but for many cancer patients isolation is a way of life. Being disconnected from the world, especially during treatments,  is difficult, but someone reaching out by writing a letter can create a much needed connection. And for the writer, sharing their own thoughts and musings allows them to take a slice of their world into that of another, and given the feel good factor of doing something good for someone else. 

The beauty of hypnotherapy is that really, the power is in your hands. It’s about heading to your sessions with an open mind and a want to tune in to what your therapist is saying. Think of this as your time – just for you.

Charity website: 

Anyone looking to donate or receive a letter can sign up at frommetoyouletters.co.uk.

Rutger Bruining is the CEO and Founder of national biographer StoryTerrace. 


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