Write a journal, or even start a blog, to write about what’s bothering you. Sometimes, we’re down, or stressed, without understanding why. Writing things down is a fantastic way to make things clearer in your own mind. Although, if you are going to be critical of others, consider keeping it anonymous.

Why writing may help

When Dr. Pennebaker and other researchers first started studying expressive writing, the prevailing theory was that it might help people overcome emotional inhibition. According to this theory, people who had suppressed a traumatic memory might learn to move beyond the experience once they expressed their emotions about it. But it’s not quite that simple. Instead, multiple mechanisms may underlie the benefits of expressive writing.

The act of thinking about an experience, as well as expressing emotions, seems to be important. In this way, writing helps people to organize thoughts and give meaning to a traumatic experience.

Or the process of writing may enable them to learn to better regulate their emotions. It’s also possible that writing about something fosters an intellectual process — the act of constructing a story about a traumatic event — that helps someone break free of the endless mental cycling more typical of brooding or rumination.

Finally, when people open up privately about a traumatic event, they are more likely to talk with others about it — suggesting that writing leads indirectly to reaching out for social support that can aid healing.

Timing also matters. A few studies have found that people who write about a traumatic event immediately after it occurs may actually feel worse after expressive writing, possibly because they are not yet ready to face it. As such, Dr. Pennebaker advises clinicians and patients to wait at least one or two months after a traumatic event before trying this technique.

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