“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
Studying Journalism at University I’ve found writing to be both a burden and a blessing. Endless essays and reams of references can take a toll on your soul, however for the most part I’ve found writing out my thoughts to be a saviour to my sanity.
There’s something soothing about getting all your ramblings out on a piece of paper, whether it be positive, negative or even neutral. For this reason, as I get older, and arguably less wise, writing a diary or journal seems to be the outlet I always fall back on. During particularly stressful times I’ve realised I seem to write as a way to tackle anxious thoughts riddling my brain, which in a way is quite sad to read back, albeit useful to look back on reflectively.
A particularly turbulent time for many young people including myself is the first year of University. So many students are just not as happy as they thought they would, and should be. For me personally during my first year I regularly felt lonely and overwhelmed, yet rarely vocalised these thoughts. Choosing a university so far from home left me uprooted from a large family presence and strong network of close friends. A result of which plunged me into an unfamiliar environment where I was largely anonymous. During these first months at university I found solace in keeping a diary to vent to about the trials and tribulations of the inadequacy I felt. However, reflecting back at my angst ridden entries got me wondering… what was it about writing down my thoughts that made me feel better and would writing only positive entries have affected me differently?
Here at the Happynesshub we often discuss the power of gratitude in boosting wellbeing – in particular within ‘gratitude writing’. However, it turns out that writing down more broadly positive things can also benefit the mind. Past studies have demonstrated that significant improvement on an individual’s mental and physical health has been shown as a result of writing about emotional experiences. In fact, studies have shown spending 20 minutes each day writing about positive experiences, for three days consecutively, improved participants mental wellbeing and resulted in fewer visits to the doctor.
As a writer who mostly uses diarising as a method to moan, with the odd sprinkling of positivity, the concept of positive writing intrigued me greatly. So over the course of a weekend I decided to test out this research (which I am not of course not passing off as replicable scientific results) and dedicated an allotted time each day to write about all positive things. From a seat on the tube during rush hour to the daily phone call with my personal hype-woman (my mum), I gushed it all out on paper. And, believe it or not, I woke up on the Monday feeling noticeably somewhat happier and excited for my day ahead. The busyness of London can often make one forget to ‘smell the roses’ if you will, so forcing myself to conjure up positive experiences when reflecting back on my day did improve my mood.
Something else my little experiment had me thinking about was how much our minds can rewire and become more positive. Nearly three years on since my troublesome first year (including both a course and complete university change), as a person I am far more positive about life and the future. Of which I believe is true because if asked to write only positively during my first year, I imagine I would’ve found the experience a significantly more difficult ‘coping mechanism’.
Writing is a skill and a pastime that can be beneficial in so many ways to our wellbeing as humans… and best of all it’s free! So if you do nothing else this week maybe pick up a pen and just see what happens!