When it comes to stress relief and maintaining a calm clear mind, writing and mindfulness go hand in hand, as both enable us to clear our busy heads, gain clarity, maintain focus, and release any pent-up emotions we may have.
Mindfulness has grown in popularity over the past few years as it is a simple way of helping us become more present and aware of ourselves, so we can live more in the moment. Mindful writing is an effective way of deepening mindfulness practise as it allows us to reflect our inner state back to ourselves from the page. It gives us the ability to become witness to what’s going on in our minds because we see our thoughts in front of us on the page, as opposed to having them circling round and round in our head.
What are the benefits of writing regularly?
It’s well recognised among psychologists that just a few minutes of handwriting a day can help you unwind, reconnect with your creativity, and explore your feelings. It is a simple way of taking much needed ‘me time’ in what, for most of us, is a very busy world.
Dr James Pennebaker, Chair of Psychology at the University of Texas, did extensive research into the benefits of writing, and his studies all showed that writing helps to improve wellbeing by helping to alleviate mental and physical stress, build resilience, and increase creativity. One study in particular; showed writing for just a few minutes a day can help fight anxiety and depression.
It’s also an excellent workout for your brain, as handwriting makes use of the areas of the brain involved in language, thinking and working memory. It can help organise thoughts and focus the mind.
Author Jason Fried, who wrote the book Rework – an excellent entrepreneurial handbook – says that writing and clear thinking go hand in hand, for it helps one to communicate better with oneself and see through the stuff that may be holding us back.
Often when I work with new students, they ask if they need to write in a certain way for their writing to be mindful. The answer to that is no. Somehow once we start, we seem to simply know what it is we need to write.
To help you get started, here are my top tips:
top tips to get you started
- Decide upon the best time each day for you to write, a time you know you can commit to.
- Choose a space in which you won’t be disturbed, and in which you feel calm and relaxed.
- Make the space special, for example candles, perhaps a lovely cushion, flowers etc.
- Get yourself a nice journal, something you would love to open and write in.
- Before you write, ensure your phone is on silent, laptop closed etc – eliminate as many distractions as possible – this is YOUR time!
- When you begin to write, focus on the here and now. If your mind starts to drift onto other thoughts, gently bring your attention back to what is happening now, then, as you continue to write you can start to explore other things.
- Bring your heart into your writing, not just your mind, to help your words hold more substance.
- Give your mind, and anything you write, full freedom.
- Remember there is no right or wrong way to do this – only the way that feels right for you.
We live in a world where there are so many SHOULDS and so many HAVE TO’S. I encourage you to approach your writing from a place of openness - let it be an exploration rather than another chore.
By Belinda Bennett