In Pirkei Avos we learn, קנה לך חבר, buy for yourself a friend. It can also be learnt as קנה - let the feather be your friend. Writing is one of the most powerful ways that we can connect to ourselves, our past and our future. Writing clarifies our thoughts for us and gives us clarity in our confusion. Writing connects us to our inner selves, our goals, and our neshama. Writing connects us to Hashem.
John F Evans Ed.D, one of the pioneers of expressive writing explains:
"How expressive writing is related to wellness was discovered by Dr. James Pennebaker, Chair of Psychology, at the University of Texas Austin. In his landmark research project, Pennebaker developed an expressive writing prompt to uncover the potential health benefits of writing about emotional upheaval. Pennebaker's research project has been replicated hundreds of times with positive outcomes.
Writing-to-heal is even for people who don’t like to write. Research about expressive writing, the kind of writing that is deeply personal and is written for one’s own eyes only, demonstrates that writing: boosts thinking ability, increases working memory, reduces pain, tension, and fatigue, enhances mood and sleep quality, and positively influences immune system function.
Other studies suggest that significant mental and physical health benefits occurred in cancer patients who wrote their deepest feelings and thoughts for thirty minutes daily for five days. Writing about “your best possible self” resulted in a significant boost in mood along with a drop in illness when compared to those who wrote about neutral topics."
Kathleen Adams, LPC, Director of the Center for Journal Therapy helps newbies with the following tips:
Just try these five easy steps. You’ll be writing!
W – What do you want to write about? What’s going on? How do you feel? What are you thinking about? What do you want? Name it.
R – Review or reflect on it. Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths. Focus. You can start with “I feel…” or “I want…” or “I think…” or “Today….” or “Right now…” or “In this moment…”
I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings. Start writing and keep writing. Follow the pen/keyboard. If you get stuck or run out of juice, close your eyes and re-center yourself. Re-read what you’ve already written and continue writing.
T – Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes. Write the start time and the projected end time at the top of the page. If you have an alarm/timer on your cell phone, set it.
E – Exit smart by re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it in a sentence or two: “As I read this, I notice—” or “I’m aware of—” or “I feel—”. Note any action steps to take.
In summary….it’s easy to W.R.I.T.E. !