Deadlines can be panic inducing. Editors may be demanding. The search for commissions is draining. Trying to make ends meet can make you feel full of anxiety. Put like that, the dream of being a published author or journalist seems more of a nightmare. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we bother writing at all.
But as well as a love of words, a passion for communication of ideas and information, and a creative impulse within, there is another reason to nudge us on. Writing can be brilliant for our wellbeing. Many writers testify to the benefits they find in their work, and researchers and science have found the same. Although definitions of wellbeing vary, it doesn’t mean green juices and yoga at dawn. Instead it refers to a general feeling of contentment and comfort, incorporating, physical, emotional, intellectual and social health.
So what does writing have to do with this happy equilibrium? Well, writing can help you…
Boost your memory
Taking note of something causes it to be repeated in your brain, and so start to embed itself. The more senses that we use in the action of something, the more resonant it is. Writing requires visual and physical effort, adding substance to the thought. But it’s important to use a pen and paper. In 2014, the Association of Psychological Science reported that students who physically took notes received an extra boost in comparison to those using the laptop.
By forcing the thoughts in your head into concrete words on the paper you are honing your communication skills, changing abstract fuzz in clear and potent prose. Whether writing words down or speaking aloud, good communication is crucial to connect with others. The more clarity we have around what we say and more understanding between people involved, the more likely it is that we can connect – thus boosting relationships and social engagements.
Be more mindful
Getting things out of your mind and on to paper clears mental space for more creative thinking, whilst also offering a visual space in which to explore. The less you are dwelling on things, the less stressed you are likely to be, and the more space you have to focus on the things in your life that matter. The New Economics Foundation in the UK cite ‘taking notice’ as one of their five ways to support mental wellbeing, and this sense of awareness is essentially mindfulness.
Heal your body
James Pennebaker is well known in the arts and health field as conducting the seminal research demonstrating a link between expressive writing and physical changes, including faster wound healing, strengthening of the immune system, reduction in blood pressure levels, higher white blood cell count, lessening pain from arthritis and better sleep – the list is vast.
Sorry, but not every pitch will be accepted, not every story win a competition, not every publisher take on your book, and not every reader love your work. But that’s ok – it’s good for you. Resilience in the face of adversity is one of the crucial factors in a life of wellbeing. Pick up your pen and keep going.
Improve self esteem
Sometimes your words will be read widely and raved about to great extent. Getting positive feedback from others gives you a great feeling by triggering endorphins in the body. As well as the physiological response, it’s clear that feeling you have talent and that it is valued by others is also incredibly motivating, encouraging you to keep going towards your goals. Having a sense of purpose and confidence in your own ability to achieve it are both aspects of a life of wellbeing.
Have some fun
A healthy life is one in which happiness tends to outweigh the sadness. Doing something you like such as writing can trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art. As the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, it’s clearly brilliant for psychological wellbeing.
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