Writing and Healing: A Journaling Guide
Create a link between writing and healing. Journaling allows you to ask questions for self-inquiry and growth. “Writing creates a physical release. It benefits wellbeing, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, decreases doctor’s visits, boosts memory, and increases self-awareness.”
If you want to transform your life, start to write, says Mark Matousek.
A former magazine journalist, co-editor of Ram Dass’s Still Here, and award-winning author of seven books, Matousek says writing is a spiritual practice. Just as the spiritual path is about seeking the truth, writing is also about uncovering truth. Writing can lead to healing.
“When you really tell the truth, your life is transformed,” asserts Matousek.
Writing is a direct path to self-knowledge. “You become your own guide and guru when you’re honest with yourself on the page and ask the difficult questions,” he says. The questions, he emphasizes, are the keys that open the wisdom. “Through self-inquiry you become your own source of wisdom.” Writing helps you excavate your inner-knowing; it taps into your intuition, your deepest self.
He points out that often people are strangers to themselves. “You go on automatic without understanding what you do or why you might do something,” he notes. We all have patterns that we repeat unknowingly; we want to understand how those patterns affect our life. Committing to a practice of writing lets you reread what you wrote, which offers you the opportunity to become a witness to your story. “That witness awareness frees you to see things from a distance and gives you a broader perspective,” says Matousek.
You want to get to the place where you don’t judge yourself. Instead, “You just say: ‘Isn’t that interesting I’m doing this. ...’” Because then you’re curious and you want to learn more. “The more you understand yourself and why you do what you do, the happier and freer you are,” he says.
In addition, writing can assist with the process of letting go. You’re able to release the stories that keep you trapped in the past. “It helps you to disentangle yourself from the past and the stories you keep telling yourself,” he says. Typically, you don’t tend to question your own narratives. “You just keep rerunning it like a loop. It’s a replay until you ask, ‘What is this obsession and why am I having such a hard time moving beyond it?’”
Often it’s the misinterpretation of a story that causes suffering. “You’re interpreting and creating narratives all the time in everything you do. And your interpretation and my interpretation of the same event might be totally different,” Matousek says. Writing lets you recognize the stories you’re telling yourself, what they represent, and how they might keep you stuck.
Writing creates a physical release. It benefits wellbeing, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, decreases doctor’s visits, boosts memory, and increases self-awareness.
Matousek recommends writing for 15 to 20 minutes five days a week a day to promote clarity and insight. He suggests asking yourself the following questions to get started.
- Where do I feel authentic in my life? What doesn’t feel authentic?
- What do I really desire?
- Where is fear driving me?
- What gifts do I hide because they were judged?
- What needs healing?
- How do I really feel?
- What am I really interested in? What fascinates me?
- With the pandemic, how have my values changed? What have I learned about myself?
Circumstances are constantly changing so you want to reevaluate what’s working in your life and what’s not.
You might feel like you have to write perfect prose as a result of school conditioning or upbringing. “Someone during your education said something and then you never want to write again,” notes Matousek. He stresses that the prose doesn’t have to be perfect—don’t worry about syntax and technique. For writing to lead to healing, just tell the truth.
To use writing for healing, you can make lists, write a poem, put it in a song. It can be any form you want it to be. “The work is a tool for self-discovery—you don’t have to show it to anyone—it’s just for you.”
As he puts it: “If you can write an email, you can do self-inquiry.”
Read more on self-inquiry: “End of Year Ritual: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself.”