How To Use Writing To Rewire An Anxious Mind
Ever feel like your thoughts are spiralling, your heart is racing and your arms and legs have a weird, disconnected feeling? Anxiety affects us all to a greater or lesser degree, often triggered by problematic situations in everyday life. For some of us it can be incredibly difficult to process and ease that adrenalin-fuelled feeling.
One proven way to ease anxiety and positively impact depression is journalling. Picking up a pencil and writing in a dedicated journal, in a scrappy notebook or on the back of your shopping list has proven effects on the brain which will help to centre and ground you and release that anxiety. When you write by hand a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System, or RAS, is stimulated. The RAS is the area of the brain that provides focus and enables you to centre in on a task to the exclusion of everything else. By using writing as a technique to stimulate the RAS we can effectively put the brake on those spiralling thoughts and stop the rollercoaster, bringing our focus back down to a calm, linear path.
But what should you write? Whatever you want! Don’t feel obliged to write an essay if it’s a struggle, these notes are just for you so if you prefer just to jot down bullet points and doodles - do it! Writing is a healthy way to process trauma, and some people find that writing down thoughts and feelings they would struggle to articulate to others can help them to understand and come to terms with their trauma. A 2002 study by the Society of Behavioural Medicine* found that “writing about stressful or traumatic events has been related to decreased distress and depression, fewer illness-related visits to physicians and positive changes in immune function.”
The familiar feeling of cracking the spine of a notebook, the eggshell texture of the paper, the scratching sound of the pencil across the page - all of these sensory stimulants are comforting, reassuring and grounding. Writing is a mindful act, that not only engages the mind to the exclusion of all else but gives your hands something to do, gives you something to look at (that isn’t an ever-changing screen!) and blocks out the rest of the world for just a few minutes. Writing also helps turn passing thoughts into memories, so if you can write down a positive affirmation, or jot down something you’re thankful for each day, you will soon hardwire your brain into recalling these positive thoughts as facts.
Though it may seem difficult to start, once you get into the habit of writing it will come naturally and you will find yourself reaching for a pen and paper in times of stress. To help you create that healthy habit, try a tool such as the BEYOUMA Journal, it’s three-month program will guide you through a process of overcoming anxiety with writing prompts and workbooks to follow to get you off to a great start and build regular writing into your routine so you can stress less and find happiness.