Writing is a social-emotional health exercise

Learn how writing can be a mindful practice to stay in the present moment and calm the mind.

A close-up image of someone's hands as they write in a notebook with a pen.
Photo: Pixabay.

Dr. Jon Kabit-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, and without judgment. Think of writing as an activity for you to recalibrate your mindset to a more positive setting. Writing takes time; it requires you to slow down, channel, focus, imagine and to organize thoughts, emotions and tone. In this way, writing is a mindful practice, meaning you are grounded in the present moment to reflect and respond to what your senses have noticed.

Writing a letter or journaling produces a mental workout that provides social-emotional health benefits. Resources to Recover, a mental health website for families and individuals, provides information on how writing improves mental health. When we feel stress, our body and minds are stressed. Our thoughts can pull us too far from the present or back into the past by worrying or analyzing too much. When you notice yourself drifting out of the present moment, consider pausing for a few minutes and writing down the thoughts or emotions pulling at you. Even 20 minutes of writing time can be effective for calming your mind and cleaning out thoughts that are distracting or bothersome.   

Regardless of your age, writing can help calm and bring clarity. The National Alliance on Mental Health provides helpful tips about how to start journaling and lists benefits for your social-emotional health. Using question prompts for writing in your journal can help you get started. Consider setting time aside weekly for journaling or writing. Do not get hung up on grammar and spelling; just enjoy writing about the day’s events, emotions felt, or about objects you had seen that caught your attention. Journaling can help you organize thoughts, clear your mind, facilitate problem solving and gain perspective. Writing can also make you more resilient to stress and therefore can have a positive impact on your social-emotional health. 

Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of online classes to help people improve their resilience to stress, such as RELAX: Alternatives to Anger, Stress Less with Mindfulness and Powerful Tools for Caregivers.

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