How Writing Helps Your Mental Health

This post is written in support of #Timetotalk day an initiative run by Time to Change.org

Time To Talk

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How can writing help you?

Writing has always been good for our overall mental health. It helps us to formalise our thoughts and express ourselves in a way that we do not usually do in everyday life. The good thing about writing is that you don’t have to share your innermost feelings with anyone you don’t want to. In this sense it is similar to speaking with your friends about how you are feeling but without subconsciously censoring yourself.

What if I can’t write?

Just because you’ve never written before doesn’t mean you can’t. You can. And if it helps you figure out what’s going on inside of your head, then why would you not do it?

Why is everyone else having such a great time?

We are very good at sharing the greatest bits of our lives online, but we’re not so good when it comes to talking about the not so great bits. A quick look at any Facebook feed shows people eager to show the parts of their lives they want you to see. Do not be fooled into thinking that every friend or person you follow on Facebook or Instagram is having a great time all of the time. Trust me; they’re not. It’s impossible! No one can be happy all of the time. In fact several studies have found that people who spend the majority of their time browsing social media are deeply unhappy.

A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen concluded that excessive use of social media creates feelings of envy. Of course I’ve known this for quite some time; I was guilty of ‘Facebook lurking’. This is when instead of engaging people online I simply browsed accounts and feeds, looking at all the photos and comments people made about their lives and how ‘full’ or ‘great’ everything seemed to be for them. It took me a while to realise that I was only seeing half the story.

People rarely share the bad things in their lives because they are embarrassed to do so.

And it is understandable. Facebook is like a huge auditorium filled with hundreds of people. Would any of us feel comfortable talking about how bad we feel in front of hundreds of people? Of course not, which is why you rarely see anything but holiday pictures, adverts and odd cat photos. When we feel bad we still want to talk about it, but we censor ourselves. So we complain about something at work, a news report that makes us angry or a sad story about a dog that got trapped down a well.

But none of this is sharing the truth, not really.

Writing it down can be the first step in talking about it

Writing down exactly how you’re feeling can come in very handy. It is a gateway into your own emotional state, allowing access to thoughts and feelings that you rarely acknowledge or explore. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write something honest about yourself. You just have to grab a pen and paper or a computer or even your phone and start writing. There’s a reason many people choose to keep a diary; it helps them explore their own feelings without fear of judgement. You can write whatever you like and not worry about what someone else might think of you.

So today on #Timetotalk day, I challenge you to write down a few sentences about how you’re really feeling. You don’t have to share them with anyone except yourself.

Who knows? It might help you begin to really talk to someone about what's bothering you.

Putting my money where my mouth is

Today I am feeling miserable. My recurring Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is playing up and I can’t work properly without experiencing severe pain and cramping down the right side of my body. I am using speech recognition software but it is still learning my speech patterns and becomes difficult when I tell it to go f**k itself.

About the Author

John is an award winning science fiction, horror and fantasy writer. He is also a public speaker and consultant and has worked with Time to Change - a campaign to end mental health stigma - and for Wellment - an organisation that delivers mental health at work training. He loves science fiction, fantasy and horror stories and novels. His work has appeared in Vector Magazine, Ink Pantry, Sci-Fi Bloggers, The Huffington Post and more. His short fantasy "Thanks for Applying" won an Honourable Mention Award in the Writers of the Future competition in 2017. HIs short horror "By the Boiler's Hand" was longlisted for the 2018 James White Award and won an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future competiton the same year. John has spoken at several events including the Nine Worlds Geekfest in London, Bristol Con 2018, and the Moorfields NHS Trust. He has delivered masterclasses on ending mental health stigma in the workplace for Time to Change. He lives with his wife and a pile of books in the UK.

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