Put it on paper

There's something cathartic about putting pen to paper. Yet with the proliferation of devices, fewer and fewer people are experiencing this. If you're one of these people, I'm here to encourage you to give it a try.

Here are some ways to experience the benefits of putting it on paper:

  • Make a list of all your to-dos or everything that's on your mind. It sounds overwhelming, but I've found seeing everything on paper actually helps reduce stress. Looking at everything at once can help you identify what's most important and what probably doesn't have to be done at all. It also helps you group tasks. Maybe there are three phone calls to make and four people to text. Now you can take care of those at the same time. It also helps you take advantage of small pockets of time that arrive because you can find a 5-minute task on your list.

  • Process an experience. When you're feeling really frustrated, scared, annoyed, etc. it can be a great idea to write about it rather than to stew about it or vent about it. Put on paper what happened and why you're feeling the way you are. This will often help you figure out what to do next, and because writing helps you put a situation into perspective, it might help you determine you don't have to do anything else. For really serious situations...

  • Find meaning through expressive writing. In The How of Happiness Sonja Lyubomirsky shares that "compared with control groups, people who spend three days exploring their deepest thoughts and feelings about ordeals or traumas in a journal make fewer visits to a doctor in the months following the writing sessions show enhanced immune function, report less depression and distress, obtain higher grades, and are more likely to find new jobs after unemployment." It's not the emotional catharsis that helps - "the critical mechanism appears to be the nature of the writing process itself, which helps us understand, come to terms with, and make sense of our trauma."

  • Write out worries, concerns or prayers. I have a page in my notebook called "What I'm sad/worried/hoping/praying about" and it's a place to put concerns both big and small. This helps me keep things in perspective, and it also helps me know that each item is recorded somewhere and I don't have to keep thinking about it.

  • Tap into the full power of writing through Morning Pages. This is three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, ideally done first thing in the morning. I found this blog post that really helps explain the Morning Pages concept developed by Julia Cameron. When I wrote Morning Pages years ago, I experienced a clearer mind, better ideas and less anxiety. It might be time for me to set the alarm earlier and do this again.

You may hesitate to write because you aren't confident in your writing skills or because you think it's just easier to type. But remember this writing is for your eyes only and in general, writing helps you remember and process ideas better than typing. Writing also helps you avoid the distractions that come from devices. And it doesn't matter if you're writing in a leather-bound journal or a piece of scrap paper.

Put it on paper.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

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