Frogs, and humans as well, can benefit from writing about their problems. These benefits can include sleeping better, feeling happier, and even getting better grade for those who are in school. In multiple studies, it's been shown that those who engage in expressive writing feel happier and less negative than before. The simple act of writing about your feelings can lessen symptoms of sadness, rumination, and anxiety for weeks, and even months, afterwards.
Bottling up your problems is stressful and can take a toll on your mental and physical wellbeing. I saw that in my friend over the weekend. He just wasn't himself. Those humans and frogs who keep their troubles a secret tend to see their doctors 40 percent more often than who don't. This is especially true of those who have experienced trauma. Not talking about important issues in your life can lead to significant health risks. Many of us choose to talk to a close friend, maybe even a therapist, but when you do that, you put yourself "out there" on the line. For that form of expression to work, the friend or therapist has to be completely accepting...and the fact is, we don't like to burden our friends with our deep emotional issues. We think it might ruin the friendship. And that's the real beauty of writing; you don't have to worry about anyone looking down on you or judging you. It's all between you and your journal.
What is it, exactly, about writing that helps calm the mind and helps us to heal emotionally? Although there's no clear answer, it does seem very likely that the mind needs meaning...a story, if you will, to help it make sense of what has happened. Only then can it rest and relax. Writing forces you to organize your thoughts and helps you make sense of your life. Interestingly, those who benefit the most are the ones who tend to increase their use of words to suggest thinking. They use certain cognitive words (those words that relate to the mental processes of perception, intuition, and reasoning) like, because, cause and effect. They also use more insightful words such as understand, realize, no, etc.
Those who choose to write about their feelings will gain real world benefits. Examples would be finding a new job after being laid off, or meeting someone new after a bad breakup.
If you'd like to try expressive writing yourself, here are a few steps to help you get started.
1. Ask yourself how long has it been. It's normal to feel sad after the loss of a loved one or after a hard breakup, being laid off from a job, etc. But if you're still feeling distressed months later, that is the time to pick up that pencil and start writing.
2. Commit to writing for twenty minutes a day for four consecutive days. You can do more if you want to, of course but four days, with 20 minutes each day is the minimum to gain any real benefits. You can do this anytime of day but most folks find it easier to write at the end of their workday.
3. Write, write, write! Write about what's bothering your for twenty minutes straight...and don't hold back! Don't worry about grammar or spelling. The only thing important here is to get your thoughts down.
4. Other things that help the process. A. When writing, it's best to tie the issue to other areas of your life, i.e. how does your problem relate to your work, family, and friends. B. Construct a powerful story that is coherent with a beginning, a middle and and end. C. Switch perspectives and try to see your dilemma through the eyes of someone else. Seeing if from another's point of view can help clarify the reality of what's going on and make it easier to deal with. D. Remember, you're not writing up an accident report for the insurance company, so make it personal and use emotional language.
I write all the time so I know, first-flipper (I mean first-hand) how beneficial writing can be. I hope these tips will help my friend to heal and feel more like himself. If you're going through something right now, you might want to try out this expressive writing thing. You've nothing to loose but you do have a great deal to gain.