Feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed? Here’s why writing is the answer.
The Other Meditation
We’ve all read about the benefits of meditation. Outlets from the Wall Street Journal and the Nw York Times to Good Housekeeping and Esquire all tout the benefits. But meditation isn’t the only way to reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus. One of the simplest and best ways to get the same benefits (plus a few more) is to start a daily writing practice.
Here are five reasons you should start writing — even if you’re not a “writer”.
- Writing improves your thinking. Capturing ideas makes them easier to connect, critique, and/or share. No idea exists all by itself; ideas are built on other ideas. That means that the more we pay attention to our ideas, the more likely it is that it will yield another idea, a better idea, or a more complex and interesting idea. Don’t wait until you have a great idea to write it down. Writing down lots of ideas guarantees that more of them will become great.
- Writing improves your memory. We all have thoughts, images, and insights running through our minds nearly constantly, which is what can make meditation so difficult. It also means that they can disappear easily. The focus and intention that it takes to translate your idea into words reinforce the idea in your memory, making it easier to recall.
- Writing improves your mood. A 2004 study at the University of Texas-Austin revealed that expressive writing for twenty minutes a day can help people experiencing difficult emotions (everything from those dealing with a terminal illness to coping with a transition to high school). These people reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and greater feelings of happiness and positivity than before their daily writing practice.
- Writing helps you be more objective. Writing — like all artmaking — is the fossil record of our relationship with our own thoughts and emotions. Meditation teaches us to separate from and observe our thoughts. Writing teaches us to capture and explore those thoughts so that we can return to them at any time. And sometimes those thoughts are challenging or even painful. But, in the end, meditation and writing offer the same lesson: These thoughts, and the emotions associated with them, are not us. We can’t always change them, but they do not need to control our actions or decisions.
- Writing keeps a record of your good ideas. The purpose of meditation is to observe and release thoughts. The purpose of writing is to observe and capture thoughts. If you’ve ever had a good or important idea while meditating, you know the struggle of wanting to both capture and release it at the same time. Writing makes that possible.
If meditation isn’t your thing, you might want to consider trying a daily writing practice instead. And if you love meditation, you might want to augment your practice with daily writing. I often refer to writing as meditation’s fraternal twin. They’re different, but they’re in the same family. Either one will get you into the same party.