Last week we talked about how Walking with Purpose can be a great way to get in touch with yourself and the world around you, while getting some fantastic health benefits at the same time. We hope you’ve had the opportunity to get out for a walk at least once since then. If not, go now! Unless, of course, you’re one of our brothers or sisters who doesn’t have the opportunity to get out and walk today. Maybe you’re trapped in by the weather, maybe you’re feeling ill. Sometimes taking a walk just isn’t a feasible option. So what can you do to stay in touch when getting out and about just isn’t an option? Today, instead of going outward into the world with a walk, we invite you to practice connecting inwardly with writing.
The physical, mental, and psychological health benefits of something as simple as writing may surprise you! A study from James Pennebaker, a leading social psychologist from the Univeristy of Texas, showed that expressive writing for 20 minutes a day several times a week improved:
· Stress and mental function
· Immune system function
· Organ function
· Greater feelings of well-being
· Fewer depression symptoms
· Memory and physical performance
Why does this work? Well, Pennebaker believed that writing expressively about the feelings and thoughts we’re having helps us structure them in an organized way so we have a better platform to find solutions. Some negative emotions, feelings, and memories can be bouncing around in our heads for a long time, and putting them on paper makes us more aware of what we’re feeling and helps us understand the reality. Connecting with the feelings we have inside can only make us stronger and more powerful people in our everyday lives.
We aren’t talking about superficial writing, like what you had for lunch today or the struggle of deciding which color rug you’d prefer in your living room. We are talking about impactful, thoughtful, meaningful writing. When you’re writing the right way (pun intended) it can be tiring and difficult like any other form of growth. But when you’re done you’ll truly feel elated; like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. It’s the mental equivalent of the exhilaration you might feel after some good exercise. So how do we write with a purpose?
Find a quiet, private place. Get comfortable, focus on your breathing for a few moments, and then turn your thoughts inward. What are you feeling? Is there a sadness in you’re the bottom of stomach? If you’ve had a wonderful day, you might be feeling high in the clouds! If things haven’t been going right, maybe you feel frustration building in the front of your head. Start writing about the feeling and let it flow into cause or reason. You can write on paper, which I prefer, or type it on a computer or tablet if you’d prefer. It doesn’t really matter. We just want to get to the heart of the question: What’s on your mind?
The second step is connecting these feelings with your identity and yourself. If you’re having difficulties or negative feelings, you might notice that similar feelings come up often in your life. Is this feeling just another instance of a story that has occurred in your life before? If you’re feeling on top of the world, what got you here? Can you take steps in your life to make this a more regular part of your life? Think about how these things fit in the narrative of you, and how you fit in the grand picture of the world.
No matter what the topic is on any given day, finish your writing by bringing it back to earth. This is the "cool down" process, just like you'd do after a demanding exercise. Whether it is your best day or your worst day, you are better off for understanding what is going on in your head and your heart. Do some unwinding and take some time to jot down the things you’re planning to do in the immediate future. If you’re writing at the end of your day, what are you going to do to start your day tomorrow? What are you looking forward to? When you stand up and bring your thoughts back to the reality around you, you’ll find you’re feeling much more empowered and in control of your mood. The effects only get stronger when we make writing with a purpose a habit.