Most of us write something every day. It might be a shopping list, a note to the teacher, a reminder to take out the bin, a quick note to a colleague. It might be handwritten on a piece of scrappy paper, scrawled on a post it note or typed into an email.
Think about the last time you wrote something meaningful – something carefully considered, like a letter to a loved one, a diary entry, a poem, an article or even a book. If it's a long time ago, you might want to think about getting back into the habit as studies have shown writing to be of benefit to both body and mind.
Research has shown that expressive writing is linked with improved mood, sense of well-being, stress levels and decreased depression as well as offering physical benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved lung and liver function and decreased time spent at the hospital. A study in New Zealand found that writing down your thoughts and feelings after a traumatic event can make both psychological and physical wounds heal faster.
Here are some other benefits of writing:
Writing has the ability to entertain you and it creates something for others to read. Reading has been shown to be a wonderful activity to promote well-being - a win/win!
Looking around you for things to write about improves your powers of observation which will give you a greater experience of life and strengthen your imagination, helping you to feel optimistic and hopeful for the future.
Writing helps to reflect on life and clears the mind with the written word encouraging us to crystallise thoughts and put them in logical order.
Writing in a diary or journal for just 15 minutes at night about things you're grateful for will help you to experience longer and better quality sleep. People who do this have also been shown to be more confident about life.
Writing a diary or journal has also been shown to help to clarify thoughts and feelings, know yourself better, reduce stress, solve problems more effectively and resolve disagreements with others. DIY therapy!
Writing is a great way to connect with others, whether through social media posting, blogging, writing articles, going to writing classes or just sending a letter to someone.
In our modern world, most writing is done on a keyboard. Every now and then, put it away and pick up a pen. Putting pen to paper has been shown to help you better retain information, the physical act of writing sending signals from your hands to your brain and improving memory.
So, how can you get into the habit of writing as, for many people, it's not something that comes naturally or "on demand"? Leo Babauta in his article "Why You Should Write Daily" suggested five ways to get into the writing habit:
1. Commit to writing daily.
2. Set aside the time.
3. Start small.
5. Shut down distractions.
Another way to get into the habit and make new friends is enrolling in a writing course. There are lots of courses available, both in-classroom and online. Take a look at the courses offered by the Australian Writers' Centre which might just be the thing you need.
For a lot of people, finding the time to write presents a big challenge. Trying to fit writing into the daily routine is just another thing to have to think about. How to shut out distractions such as emails arriving, babies bawling, homework hassles, waiting washing and dinner demanding. There aren't enough hours in the day.
The thing is, we all have the ability to change something in our day. Think of it this way - by setting aside a small chunk of time each day, you'll be doing not only yourself, but those around you, a favour. Far from being selfish, you're contributing to a happier, healthier and hassle-free you which will make the lives of those around you a little more joyful... and that's worth writing about.