Feelings of stress, disappointment, or anger can be hard to navigate, even if you do your best to stay positive and treat yourself with compassion. And while spending time with caring friends or hitting the gym for an endorphin boost can help you feel happier, taking time to reflect can have a similar feel-good effect. Science has shown that writing down affirmations will give your mood a boost, so we compiled five easy ways to write through the tough stuff.
1. Write a letter
Writing a letter — whether you send it or not — can be a great way to get a grasp on your emotions when your thoughts are a jumbled mess. The act of letter writing may help you articulate — and navigate — your feelings as they flow onto the page.
How to Do It: Write a letter to someone else (or yourself) and don’t hold back. Let the words flow onto the page without fear of judgment or rejection. No filtering or self-censoring allowed.
2. Try a fresh perspective
Do you feel trapped in a tough social situation or challenged by a relationship problem you can’t seem to understand or change? Become a narrator and flip the script while writing to experience clarity. You might find you’re able to open your mind to healthy outcomes that your emotion has blinded you to.
How to Do It: Write a script as if you’re watching from afar as a third party, or opt to write like you’re someone else in your situation. Put the shoe on the other foot without feeling pressure to admit to any wrongdoing or having made a mistake. You may be able to uncover resolution without personal bias and with empathy.
3. Use a prompt to get creative
Feel like you’d love to write some of the stress out but don’t know where to start? Instead of waffling over where to begin, pick a prompt and just start writing.
How to Do It: Let your imagination take over as your words fill the page. Feel free to go beyond standard paper and pen while pulling off this exercise; you can also get creative with colored pencils, markers, or colored or textured papers.
4. Create an emotion-based word cloud
Jotting down full sentences and paragraphs aren’t the only way to tap into the power of the written word. Sometimes a word association activity is all you need to do the trick to work through some feelings.
How to Do It: Pick a word that’s top of mind (such as “stress”) and write down any words that pop into your head immediately following first thought of it. You can even write out your emotions like you might make a shopping list. Allow yourself to be carried away, and when you’re done, look back to better understand all of the subtleties of a stressful feeling or topic.
5. Describe a scene
Writing through a tough time might inspire you to focus on your feelings, but you don’t necessarily need to think or document them to reap the benefits of writing practice. In fact, dreaming about a scene and describing it might be all it takes to find relief.
How to Do It: Create your own escape by writing about a place or scene that brings you excitement, calm, relief, or joy. You can take a trip down memory lane or dream about something that hasn’t happened yet. How freeing.