What is the Connection Between Writing and Mental Health?
by Dr. David L. Wick, D.C.
Many people are fine writers but just don't know it yet. Although English programs in many schools encourage some level of composition, most of the required assignments do not emphasize the joys of personal expressive writing. While poetry form is taught and writing assignments are given, the emphasis of using one's natural writing talents to enjoy emotional expressions may be easily missed.
While not my teachers' brightest English student, I enjoyed excellent progress through those classes. Though most of my writing assignments received good grades, I did not immediately develop an enjoyment of writing outside of the classroom.
As a matter of fact, "recreational 'riting" was not a solid part of my life until about two years ago, and until last fall, I didn't even think much of keeping a regular journal. It was then that a unique family, teaching seminars on family journaling, taught me some very valuable lessons on keeping a fun journal filled with snapshots of daily life. As I became more aware of journaling, I found several of my close friends also journaled. I also became aware that many of the world's brightest minds and achievers were prolific daily writers.
In two examples I recently read, some well-recognized writers used their abilties to diffuse negative emotions.
President Abraham Lincoln was a very expressive writer that composed many letters. In one instance, he wrote a letter of severe rebuke to General Meade after the general directly disobeyed the president's orders. But rather than mailing the letter, he set it aside. He satisfied his need for emotional expression without actually bringing the sharp criticism to the general's attention.
Another sharply critical writer was Mark Twain. He would write very stern letters and set them in the mail, but his wife rescued them from the process of reaching their recipients. Yet the writing allowed Mark to blow off steam.
Writing provides a terrific outlet for emotional expression. It allows a person to process his or her emotions in a very visible way. Like painting or sculpting, writing is an artistic reflection of the mind. By processing one's emotions through art, one is able to better adapt to the various circumstances of life.
That is why I encourage all people to enjoy some level of artistic expression, especially if it's writing. By keeping a daily journal in written or electronic form, one is able to capture snapshots of their daily lives and better process those events. Sometimes, when a situation seems particularly troubling, the experience of writing will help to make things clearer and perhaps dilute the trouble. When experiences bring about tremendous joy, expressing that in writing allows a record that can be enjoyed time and time again.
By encouraging family journaling, generations of writers may enjoy unique opportunities for bonding. Also, if one wishes to share sections of his or her journal with another person, valuable life lessons may be learned by the reader.
One certainly needs a whole lot more than writing to guarantee good mental and emotional health, but writing may provide many steps in the right direction.
©Copyright 2005 Dr. David L. Wick, D.C. All rights reserved.
This article is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of any illness. Diagnosis and treatment of all health conditions should only be performed by your doctor of chiropractic or other licensed health care professional. Please use this article for informational purposes only. This information does not replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare provider.