Personal Development

WRITE FOR RECOVERY: 3 pen-to-paper prompts that'll lessen anxiety and depression

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Choose a moment in your day. It can be as small as when a clerk smiled at you, when you noticed a child's laughter or when you smelled a lovely flower. Now, savour that moment in writing. Use all your senses as you describe the experience and how it felt in detail.

Practicing this daily will help you become mindful of the tiny delightful moments that can be found within even the most challenging days.

Expressive writing has been a lifesaver for me"”a form of therapy that's always available, and one that has been shown by numerous studies to improve emotional (and even physical) well-being.

Journaling, or better yet, doing writing prompts designed for healing, can be uplifting and calming. It can even relieve minor depression and anxiety. But for many people, just being told to journal isn't enough"”the words won't come, you might find yourself repetitively complaining, or worse yet, you might discover that your writing bores even you!

Instead of facing a blank page, it may be helpful to try the three exercises below, which have been designed specifically to improve your emotional well-being.

Feel it and heal

Let's begin by exploring the atmospheres in which we live"”our bodies, our homes and our auras"”or the atmospheres we carry with us. Becoming more aware of the atmospheres we inhabit will give us the opportunity to change the way we feel.

Do a written body scan

This is simply a written body scan that'll help you become more mindful of how you somatize your emotions, if you suffer from mild depression or anxiety.

Identify, in writing, where your depression or anxiety exists in your body. Does your depression live as a feeling of heaviness in your chest? Does your anxiety manifest as flutters in your belly? Or is it more apparent in your face, due to the tension in your lips? Each of us will experience depression and anxiety differently.

Simply describe the qualities of your discomfort"”the shape and density of your depression, the colour and weight of your anxiety. You may very well feel a release by just becoming more acutely aware of what's going on with your body. How valuable it is to develop a more intimate relationship with your lifelong home!

Write about the atmosphere you live in

Speaking of home, let's also take a written inventory of the atmosphere in which you live.

Begin by simply describing the room around you, noticing things you generally overlook.

After you've written the physical description above, explore the feeling this environment instills:

  • What is its weight, its colour and its density?
  • Does it inspire or depress you?
  • Does it create space and encourage growth and expansion, or is it constricting?
  • Does your living space make you happy to be home?

Now, how would you like your environment to feel? Describe your ideal atmosphere, and list things you might do to make your space more peaceful, inspiring and comfortable.

Write down at least three small positive changes that you can make. It's inexpensive, for example, to create nice lighting, perhaps by adding a coloured lightbulb or a small mood lamp to use before bedtime. It's easy to add the smell of fragrant candles or an essential oil diffuser, or hang art on your walls that'll instill calm in your bedroom, inspire you in your office and uplift you in the kitchen. The music you listen to can also greatly affect the atmosphere of your home.

Write about the atmosphere you carry with you

Another major element of the atmosphere in which you live is the atmosphere you carry with you. Within this next exercise, we'll explore this in greater detail.

Try to imagine how your energy affects people as you enter a room. What does the atmosphere that surrounds you communicate to others? Is the energy you create for yourself infused with optimism, or is it dark? Are you looking for the goodness in every shattered soul you meet? Do you carry a sense of gratitude for the blessings in your life, or do you take them for granted? Are you playful, or way too serious? Can you laugh at yourself and our common predicaments? The atmosphere you carry will colour your perceptions of yourself, as well as others.

After you've identified the current state of your personal atmosphere, try to define the ideal atmosphere that you'd like to radiate. Creating a positive aura around you not only feels good, it's also magnetic and charismatic and will draw others towards you. Additionally, you may want to envision a protective space around yourself, neutralizing toxins that may invade your personal environment.

You can control how you feel

Once you increase your awareness of the atmospheres in which you live, you'll begin to realize that these environments are partly of your own creation, and that you have more control over how you feel than you may have previously thought.

I've seen amazing growth in my students that came from doing these types of exercises"”from big emotional shifts to major life changes, such as suddenly moving to another home or switching careers.

Writing can be a door into your perceptions, emotions and thoughts, and will often reveal more to you than you consciously know. You can express things to your journal that you may not have another safe outlet for, and you can get in touch with your wiser self who has solutions and answers that you'd never consciously think of. And, as you can see with the three exercises above, writing can enhance your attention level, lessen anxiety and depression and help you begin to take steps towards living your ideal life.

This article was first published here.

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About the author

Diane Sherry Case

Diane Sherry Case, author of Write for Recovery: Exercises for Heart, Mind and Spirit, is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. Case developed Write for Recoveryâ„¢ while teaching creative writing in prisons and high schools, and has expanded her coaching practice to help therapists utilize writing to heal their patients.
Case has overcome a lifetime of loss and trauma, and has used writing as a form of psychotherapy throughout her harrowing experiences.