How writing things down helps clear your mind

Life can get confusing and overwhelming at times and in the midst of the storm, it can be hard to find clarity. How do you make the right choice when you feel torn in multiple directions? Writing 20 minutes a day, for four consecutive days, has been shown to really help? Just 20 minutes of non-stop writing, without thinking about; grammar, punctuation or spelling, can reduce stress levels, remove mental blocks and open up new possibilities!

In 2004 Dr. Alan Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin published “Writing to Heal”, which taught people how to use journalling to overcome emotional upheavals in their lives. Dr Pennebaker called the technique ‘Expressive Writing’. He found it reduces depressive symptoms, rumination and general anxiety.

Several years ago I was encouraged to keep a journal. I don’t think I realised then how therapeutic writing was, but I did come to enjoy the head space and the chance to record how I felt or what I was thinking at any given time. Writing helped give me clarity. My journal became a vehicle for learning more about myself – what made me happy and what was upsetting. I was able to see what I expected of myself and everyone else and then stand back and check if it was realistic or not.

If you’re looking for a way to get more clarity on something or to work through a stressful event, you may find it useful to experiment with Dr. Pennebaker’s 4 day writing strategy.

I suggest choosing a special book that invites you to come and write, so it’s worth investing in something that appeals to your senses.

How to get started:  

  • Choose a time and place free of disturbances
  • Write continuously for 20 minutes or more
  • Don’t worry about spelling or grammar
  • Write only for yourself
  • Write about something important and personal for you
  • Deal only with events or situations that you can handle now

A note of caution:
If something you’re writing about makes you really upset, then please stop. You can come back to it later if you choose.

Journalling has been proven to deliver positive results. Be curious. You may not notice changes immediately and you may even feel sad for a day or two, but the research says that the benefits are evident within days or weeks and often go on for years. I’ll vouch for that.


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