How Daily Writing Can Reduce Symptoms of Depression

By Matt Scillitani

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people suffer from depression globally, making it the most common mental illness worldwide.

With mental health awareness on the rise, people are searching more than ever for effective ways to treat symptoms of depression. Traditional treatment often includes medication and therapy, commonly supplemented by a wide variety of therapeutic options. One of those options is writing. Here’s a look at how the simple act of daily writing can reduce symptoms of depression

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Stress can play a key role in the development of depression, and experts say writing daily can significantly reduce feelings of stress that exacerbate the condition. Writing can be incredibly calming, and according to the British Journal of Health and Psychology, positive emotional writing alleviates feelings of stress and anxiety. The 2018 study found that participants who underwent regular positive writing showed emotional improvements 4 weeks after they started writing.

May Help Treat Past Trauma

Writing may also help some people cope with symptoms caused by a traumatic event. Putting your words and thoughts down on paper can be an outlet for emotions that allows difficult feelings to be unpacked. It’s so effective at doing this it’s often a part of many PTSD survivors treatment plans. Research has found that just three sessions of twenty-minute writing provided a beneficial outcome for PTSD symptoms.

Increases Awareness

Writing has a calming and clearing effect that can allow a person to explore their feelings more receptively. Enhancing the awareness of our feelings makes it easier to learn about personal triggers. Recording how you feel on a day to day basis can also help you identify patterns in your mood. Taking note of your daily activities, physical symptoms, people you interact with, and how it makes you feel can uncover causes that you were otherwise unaware of. Awareness of these feelings is often the beginning of depression treatment.

Unloads Difficult Feelings

Life is full of unpleasant feelings, but depression can make those feelings unbearable. Expressing your emotions is an important part of treating depression. Writing allows a person to express these feelings in a healthy manner that’s suitable for their uniquely personal struggles. Depression can be manifested into a fictional story that gives its writer a more palpable and shifted perspective of what they’re dealing with.

Provides Control

Feelings of losing control are common when experiencing depression. It can give you the sense that you’re not in control of your emotions or yourself, which can be an incredibly difficult perspective to have. Writing gives back that control. You’re completely in charge of what you do or do not write, how it is written and the emotional power it has. When treatment feels out of your hands, writing can be a significant aid to your recovery under nothing or no one’s authority but your own.

When and What to Write

Experts suggest writing every day, ten to twenty minutes a day. The goal is to avoid negative thoughts. Exploring symptoms on paper is a good start. Penning a poem of a soothing image might be helpful. You may also turn your depression into a character, whether it’s a cartoonish villain or fearsome warrior is up to you. Many people choose to stay factual in their writing as well. Focusing on positive aspects such as listing your skills or desires then writing about each one for twenty minutes can decrease symptoms and increase self-esteem.

While daily writing can help depression greatly, it cannot replace traditional treatment entirely. Nonetheless, writing in conjunction with treatment can be a powerful aid in recovery. Writing in a notebook is a great option, but some prefer an electronic device (such as their phone) they can keep on them at all times. The important thing to remember is that anyone can do it and there is no wrong way.

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