Mental health is a river; its current can mold its surrounding landscape using the strength of its tide. This flow can be affected by a variety of factors, including wind, precipitation, and time. Similarly to these factors, the flow of mental health is largely impacted by the way we spend our time. The majority of our lives are spent exploring various passions, some of which can have a positive or negative result. As someone who tends to get absorbed in tasks to a vast extent, it’s important that I assess whether my free time is spent in ways that are good for me, whether it is physically or mentally.
Writing is an activity that consumes the majority of my time. Whether it’s in the mornings or evenings, I write either to complete assignments or to unwind after a long day. Writing for relaxation can take many forms such as gratitude, affirmations, or a brain dump. I opt to use a combination of these three ideas by journaling at the start and end of my day. After a particularly stressful week, I often notice that I feel considerably lighter and refreshed after my daily journaling sessions. This is likely because several studies have shown that journaling helps to manage anxiety and control stress. Journaling is beneficial because it helps prioritize problems, fears, and concerns. It also helps with recognizing triggers so you can better learn how to manage them, and provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors (Watson et al., n.d). Although journaling is helpful for managing anxiety and contributing to an overall better emotional wellbeing, it’s important to remember that journaling is just one factor to improve your mental health. In addition to journaling, experts recommend meditation, exercise, sleep, and a balanced diet to improve long-term mental health.
Writing can be beneficial for everyone, but it can also help those who are dealing with long-term mental health struggles and mental illnesses. Expressive writing can have benefits for those diagnosed with a major depressive disorder (Krpan et al., 2014). Expressive writing is a technique in which individuals perform deep and thoughtful writing about a troubling or traumatic event. In this study, a cluster of participants with MDD were assigned to complete 20 minutes of expressive writing for 3 consecutive days about an emotional event. The rest of the participants were assigned to write about non-emotional daily events over the same time period. At the conclusion of the test, people diagnosed with MDD who were assigned to the expressive writing test showed significant decreases in depression scores compared to their non-expressive writing counterparts. The study details that “these benefits persisted at the 4-week follow-up.”
Journaling and expressive writing are both possible options for those struggling with mental health or illnesses, but creative writing also has many benefits associated with its name. “Creative writing is said to be helpful in decision-making and stress relieving, improving mental health” (Bolton University, 2022). The blog states several benefits, the first one detailing how creative writing can help individuals gain mental clarity. “Creative writing forces you to arrange your ideas and put them into words. This can assist you in putting things into perspective and making better judgements. Writing also assists you in becoming more conscious of your own ideas and emotions. When we write down our ideas, we push ourselves to organize them in a logical manner. This can be beneficial for persons who suffer from mental health disorders such as anxiety or ADHD since it allows them to focus on one job at a time.” I have found that when I become busier, I often find myself writing more because it allows me to clear my headspace and pour my thoughts on paper. This ensures that I have a blank slate for the next day and all of my previous worries can melt away. Finally, the blog also states that creative writing helps to increase your self-esteem. “It can make you feel better about yourself as it allows people to see what’s going on within your thoughts. You may even earn praise from friends or family after sharing anything you’ve produced with them. If you don’t share your writing, then writing about yourself or the events in your life provides an artistic outlet to express your thoughts without fear of criticism from others. Writing about yourself allows you to ponder on who you are as a person and how much importance each human being has.” This is what makes writing greatly beneficial for all, as you don’t have to be vulnerable and expose your thoughts to others in order to better your mental health. The only vulnerability writing demands is from yourself, as well as honesty in your feelings and ideas.
Mental health is a river. Its current ebbs and flows throughout the beautiful landscape of your mind, transforming its features into different forms than they were previously. To water the seeds of your mental health, it’s important to pay attention to what you are feeding your mind. The next time you are feeling stressed, try picking up a pen and jotting down your feelings. After all, a river does need some space to grow, and by indulging in the perfect hobbies, the flowers of your mind will grow more than ever before.
Watson, L. R., Ratini, M. M., & Ballas, P. (n.d.). Journaling for emotional wellness. Journaling for Emotional Wellness – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
Krpan, K. M., Kross, E., Berman, M. G., Deldin, P. J., Askren, M. K., & Jonides, J. (2013, September 25). An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: The benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Journal of affective disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3759583/
University of Bolton. (2022, October 25). Psychological benefits of creative writing. University of Bolton. https://www.bolton.ac.uk/blogs/psychological-benefits-of-creative-writing
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Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.