Can writing reduce your stress levels?
Whether you write for a living, spend your life making to-do lists or haven't put pen to paper since you were at school, did you know that writing can be a great tool to help reduce your stress levels? Lately we've been looking at a number of ways to reduce stress in your life, from how to get a good night's sleep to using acupuncture or meditation as ways of relaxing. But could something as simple as writing have a real impact on the way your body handles stress?
What causes stress?
Stressful situations cause stress, you'd think would be the logical answer. But what actually happens to our bodies when we are stressed? Feelings of stress release cortisol into the blood – cortisol can destroy brain cells and increase weight gain around your stomach, which can raise your risk of heart disease. Stress also causes extra glucose to be released into your blood stream, raises your heart rate and slows down your metabolism. It even stops the production of sex hormones, which is why you might feel less in the mood when your life is stressful.
How can writing help to relieve stress?
We know that meditation can help relieve stress – taking a few moments out of your day to focus on your breathing and clearing your mind of thoughts. Perhaps writing works in a similar way. When we write, we focus entirely on the task at hand, engaging the part of our brain responsible for creativity. Have you ever been so caught up in a project for school or university that you didn't even notice the time ticking by? That's good for stress relief.
Did you know that writing (with pen or pencil and paper) can reduce symptoms of depression? Try keeping a journal – it can also help to fight anxiety. Research shows that spending time jotting down your emotions can help you to process things, letting go of anger and negativity. Creative writing boosts self-awareness and helps you to solve problems in a private and constructive way. Research also shows that keeping a diary encourages women's' self-esteem and promotes a positive body image. So there's no need to stress over your bikini body anymore.
Approach it the right (write) way
If you're new to writing, start small. Why not try writing some positive affirmations that you can pin to your wall or stick to your fridge? Or note down things that made you happy today, to look at later. One great writing idea is to keep a jar into which you put a piece of paper with one good thing that happened to you today written on it. This can really work to boost your mood if you're feeling low – just tip the pieces of paper out and read all the good things that have happened over the last few weeks! If you're feeling extra-creative, you could try your hand at a poem or short story, or even start a blog.
Writing can help to focus the mind, which in turn makes you more mindful. Mindfulness and self-awareness really do go a long way towards making us feel more relaxed. Decrease your stress levels and you'll notice all kinds of other positive changes too – you'll sleep better, have more energy and be more likely to make healthy food choices, rather than craving sugary or fatty foods. So pick up your favourite pen (or pencil) and prepare for writer's cramp....