I love to write. When I wrote my first book a few years ago, it was a long and tiring process. But my passion for sharing information and my experiences in words drove me to continue to write, page by page, until I had an entire book!
I also love to journal. Writing down about my vacations, school year, or even just my day is fun for me. I like to look back on my journal and read through what I did two or three years ago - it is quite nostalgic for me!
We've talked before about how sharing or expressing our emotions is important. When we talk about our feelings and label them, we feel better. We are better able to cope with our experiences and to handle difficult emotions.
What about writing down our emotions? Does this have any effect? Well, this study is one example that shows that writing down our emotions can actually have important effects on our mood and functioning. In this study, participants were about to take a math test. Half the group were given a piece of paper and pen and told to write about how they felt before the test. The other half didn't write about their emotions. Interestingly, the group that did not write about their emotions (but were anxious) showed a relationship between their anxiety and marks. In other words, anxiety without writing about it was related to lower marks. BUT, those who wrote down about their worries did not show a relationship to their mark. So, those who wrote about their study performed as they normally would have, regardless of their anxiety.
What does this mean? In simple terms, it means that when we write down our emotions, we do not allow them to control us or to screw our experiences and perceptions. We are able to identify our emotions and move on. However, when we don't express our feelings (for example, through writing), we get bogged down, and this affects our functioning and experiences.
So, does this mean you must write down every single emotion you experience? No, not at all. In fact, even just verbally speaking about your emotions is helpful. But it does serve an important to be able to write down about how we feel. If you can, try getting a journal (or even use an app on your phone!) and begin writing about your day and your feelings. When you are encountered by tough situation, take time to write about it and identify your emotions as they are. I guarantee that you will realize a big difference in how you are able to cope with the emotion and the entire experience. You will be able to understand what exactly you are feeling, why this situation is making you feel that way. Then, you can ride through the emotion and take steps to make the experience less distressing/difficult for yourself. Similarly, writing about the experience after it is over can help you reflect and realize what you learned from it, how you dealt with the whirl of emotions, and what you can do differently next time. Even if it is ONE WORD such as 'ANGRY!", you will still feel some relief in identifying the emotion.
Try it today! Grab a pen and paper (or your finger and your phone....), and try writing down how you feel!