How to banish negative thoughts according to the experts

We write to fill a void, to take revenge on reality, on circumstances. This phrase, attributed to writer Mario Vargas Llosa, shows that writing is not just for novelists, journalists and other wordsmiths.

Writing has proved to be an effective tool for unravelling and making sense of our thoughts and feelings. Whether to express our experiences, our thoughts or our habits, writing has an impact on our psychological and physical .

Journaling or expressive writing involves expressing thoughts, experiences, reflections or habits using ink and paper (or a keyboard). It's one of the most popular ways of letting off steam, just as we did in our and adolescence with diaries. But it's also a habit that can be good for your .

The psychological and physiological benefits of expressive writing

The psychological and physiological benefits of expressive writing are well-founded. More than 200 studies demonstrate the positive effect of writing on . University of at Austin social psychologist James A. Pennebaker, studied the impact of certain types of writing on mental health in 1986. He found that labeling emotions and acknowledging traumatic events had a known positive effect on people.

To reach these conclusions, he asked 50 university students to write about their experiences and divided them into two groups. One was asked to write about superficial, everyday experiences, the other about painful or traumatic ones. The second group reported a more positive mood and fewer illnesses. This suggests that dealing with traumatic experiences through writing can have a positive effect on physical health.

So, what should I write about?

Writing about painful moments can have an undesirable effect on some people. That's why it's essential to find something to write about. And it's a task that's done through writing. Some people write down specific aspects of their daily lives, while others see it as a spontaneous exercise that takes shape through creative writing. Raquel Tomé López, general health psychologist, psychotherapist and neuropsychologist at Madrid's Centro Guia de Psicoterapia, explains that writing is not a panacea. But, she admits, it does help us to become aware of and reveal intimate thoughts and feelings about painful experiences from which we can derive positive health benefits.

In an article published in The Conversation, Christina Thatcher, Professor of Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University, proposes three types of writing: expressive, reflective and creative. Each has its own advantages, but all are aimed at personal development.

Types of journal or expressive writing

Reflective journal, Journal of what's going well, Gratitude journal, Journal of unsent letters, One-word journal

There are other methods of journaling that don't necessarily involve writing, such as the collage journal or the one-photo-a-day journal. These are two ways of recording one's thoughts, because for many, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Writing therapy

Expressive writing has gained momentum in recent years due to the emphasis on , but not everyone finds it to their liking. Some people feel a great deal of fear and anxiety when faced with the task of revealing past trauma,” explains psychologist Raquel Tomé. That's why it may not be the most appropriate for these people to embark on journaling or expressive writing. But if they do decide to do so, says the therapist, they will need the right support, such as that of a psychotherapist who can provide the appropriate therapeutic accompaniment in the process of tackling such a task. This is what we call writing therapy.

For those undergoing psychological treatment, this exercise can help the professional to understand the patient's problem, so as to propose the best possible treatment.

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