Working with an expressive arts therapist opened the door to expressive writing for me. I had long since been a journaller, following my introduction to Julia Cameron’s book The Artists Way, which was a big supporter of writing daily upon waking for 3 full pages filled with complaining, whining and ultimately, after I made it past the first pages, led to some authentic self expression – and even dreaming or the setting of some heart felt goals. Expressive writing is a story telling technique that allows our deepest memories and thoughts to surface on the page, giving them life and space to be experienced. In my travels, I often found myself creating and living into a new future, or a slightly more positive perspective of my stories, which have followed me around for years and needed to be questioned and rewritten. But first they needed to see the light of day, to emerge from my subconscious in a fit of writing – 20 mins a day, for 4 days. The benefits of this process of expressive writing are numerous and found to be beneficial for cancer patients, and those suffering from trauma, or even arthritis. As a result, stress levels are reduced and individuals experience growth and development from the process of writing unhindered by the inner critic or the imposing societal norms and rules of how we should think.
I recently found an article on Expressive Writing in my favourite magazine Live Happy. Here’s a summary of instructions on how to do Expressive Writing:
1. Set aside 20 mins a day, for four consecutive days
2. Write about challenges, conflicts, stressors, etc. The kinds of things that you ruminate over, either in the present or past.
3. Write freely and continuously, ignore spelling and grammar. Write for a minimum 20 mins.
4. Let go of your deepest thoughts and feelings. You can write about the same topic each day, or how the event is tied to your life
5. After four days of writing, reflect on what you’ve written. Can you find meaning in your story? Think about who you would like to become from your writing, who you would be if you gave up your story
This process of writing out my stream of consciousness helped me to find my purpose in life. In thinking about the challenges I have gone through, I was able to gleam some of my strengths and strong qualities from the experience, and out of it came a desire to help others in the same situation.
We all have stories about ourselves, and the world we live in – often these stories are defeatist or negative in nature. Through revising our stories, we create opportunities for a more optimistic perspective that can help us reframe our past and create a more vibrant future. The end result is an acknowledgement of our difficulties and acceptance of our path. We have the chance to create resolution to those – at times – overpowering and intrusive thoughts, and make our thoughts our friends. In making our thoughts friendlier and more positive, we create less stress and tension in the body, thus leading to greater happiness and joy. And we all could use more of that!