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For good mental health, one of the most powerful actions you can take is to write your heart out.
Of course you would expect to read those words from a guy who writes a mental health newsletter.
But I’ve found it to be true.
The more I write, the more I learn about myself.
And the more I learn about myself, the better I feel.
This does not mean that I suggest you write all day, every day and ignore life responsibilities and other actions that help you feel better.
What I mean is that, when you write, you gain access to something that you can’t get in other ways.
Let’s Talk About Mental Health Writing
Mental health writing, as I define it, is writing with the purpose of discovering yourself and your mental health.
It can take many forms, but I’ll only discuss one of them today.
What I’m going to share is a technique that anyone can do. All you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper or a computer with a functioning keyboard.
Do you have any of those? Alright, then you can try this.
But first, let’s talk about the benefits of writing.
Writing is an exploration.
It’s delving deep into your thoughts and feelings. When you write, you navigate places that the thinking, judging, “rational” part of your mind doesn’t want to consider. You go deeper, to parts of your mind that you don’t always access.
And writing is freedom.
You can write whatever you want. You can explore whatever crevice of your mind seems most enticing. It’s totally up to you. You are in control of what you write, and you are in control of how much you write. In a world that loves to place limits on what you can and cannot do, writing is cry for freedom, a call to express yourself.
And writing is a tool.
When you write with intention, you write to discover yourself. You write to hone a skill. In the process, you end up honing yourself. You lose yourself in the motion, and you forget that you are this separate entity with problems and fears. You just are, lost in the act of creating.
A Process of Self-Discovery
The writing process I’m now going to tell you about is one that I use myself.
I think it’s best to only share what I have learned and what has helped me. If I don’t, I risk being a charlatan, and the world has enough of those already. I need to write my truth.
Grab your pen or pencil and a piece of paper. Or grab your computer. Whatever you prefer will do just fine. And then find something you can use to time yourself. It can be a microwave timer. It can be an old-fashioned timer that your gym teacher used in gym class way back when. It just has to track time and let you know when time is up. That’s what timers do.
Next, find a comfortable spot where you’ll be able to sit for five minutes. You’re not going to be moving from that spot.
Get the timer ready and set it to run for five minutes. Get your materials ready. Get comfortable.
What you are going to do for the next five minutes is write as much as you possibly can.
If you’re using an old-fashioned writing implement, you’re not going to lift your implement from the page. If you’re typing, your fingers should never leave the keyboard.
Fix your mind on one general topic. It could be something that’s been troubling you, or it could be a part of your identity that you’re figuring out. It doesn’t matter what you pick, just that you pick something.
Start the timer, and begin to write. Keep this up for the full five minutes, writing whatever comes to mind. Don’t judge it. Don’t try to find the perfect words. Just write.
If you do this, you’ll tap into your subconscious, the part of your brain that you don’t use as much throughout the day, the part of your brain that doesn’t deal with all the mundane tasks that you always have to do.
Just write your heart out. Soon you’ll find that you’re leaping from one idea to the next.
I’ve started this process intending to write about one thing and then my brain took me somewhere else entirely. It took me to a place that I needed to go but didn’t realize at the outset. This will likely happen for you as well.
If you write without judgment, you’ll unearth ideas that you never knew you had and feelings that were hiding just out of view.
It’s a powerful process to discover the ideas that matter most to you. So much of life follows a prescriptive track. You do this, and then you do that. You go to work, and you do your job. You fulfill your family obligations, and then you go to sleep and do it all over again.
Writing for five minutes without stopping lets you tap into something you may have lost since you were a child. It’s something that comes naturally for a child, head down and drawing or writing for minutes straight, but it’s foreign to the grownup.
It’s time to relearn what you once know. Writing can be healing, or it can be educational. It can be both at once. Try it, and see for yourself.
Let Your Heart Breathe for Five Minutes
You have five minutes in your day. If you don’t have five minutes to spare for yourself, then it might be time to slow down and reconsider your priorities.
Writing is an act of rebellion against the mundane forces that control your life. It’s a break from what’s normal.
If you seize this opportunity, you take five minutes to choose yourself.
Writing can be a gift if you allow it to be. It can help you go to places you don’t normally go. It’s therapeutic, and it’s cathartic.
What will you write about first?
What will you discover about yourself that you are meant to discover?