Expressive writing is the practice of writing about events that are very emotional or meaningful for you. During expressive writing, you are encouraged to ignore the rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. This allows your writing to be focused on the topic, rather than the technical aspect of writing. Through the expressive writing process, an individual is able to write down their feelings, thoughts, and experiences. In doing so, we are given the opportunity to reflect and the ability to re-write the narrative of our stories, creating a more honest and realistic account of our experiences.
The process of changing the narrative of our story has been shown to have a great effect on our lives. Expressive writing has been shown to lower rumination and symptoms of depression, leading to increased happiness. Rumination is repeatedly going over the same thought in your mind. This can often lead to a skewed perception, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Expressive writing releases the mind from the damaging cycle of rumination, allowing a more clear and realistic perception of the situation to be formed. People who did expressive writing were shown to have a better outlook on life, and were happier overall.
At Searidge Drug Rehab, journaling is incorporated in the addiction treatment process. Journaling, a form of expressive writing, assists in the addiction treatment by allowing recovering addicts to re-evaluate the situations which triggered their drug use, and offers them the opportunity to re-write their story. Changing the narrative of drug use and addiction from one of self-blame to one of self-compassionate is crucial in the recovery process. Thus, journaling and expressive writing are indispensable in drug treatment centers, as they aid in a holistic recovery, addressing not only drug use but also the underlying causes, such as depression.
Dr. James Pennebaker, Chair of Psychology, at the University of Texas has completed several studies, which demonstrate the beneficial effects of expressive writing. Below is The Pennebaker Writing Prompt used to provoke expressive writing. Take some time to practice your expressive writing using the prompt. Who knows—you may write your way to happiness.
“In your writing, I would like you to really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts about the most traumatic experience in your entire life. You might tie this trauma to other parts of your life: your childhood, your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends, relatives or other people important to you. You might link your writing to your future and who you would like to become your future, or to who you have been, who you would like to be, or who you are now. Not everyone has had a single trauma but all of us have had major conflicts or stressors and you can write about these as well. All your writing is confidential. There will be no sharing of content. Do not worry about form or style, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, or grammar.”