3 Ways Writing Can Become a Tool for Healing

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Each one of us has a story to tell.

It is our past that makes up our present. And it is the truths and our emotions about past events that determine how we embrace our future. While none of us can go back and change events from the past, what we do have is the power within us to use these three tools and embark on a writing journey for healing. Writing can be a powerful personal way to embrace who you are and to let go of the things that are weighing you down, whether it be the loss of a loved one, a traumatic life event, a recent breakup, or an everyday stressor.

1. Write for Fifteen Minutes a Day

Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way for as little as fifteen minutes over the course of three days brings about improvements in mental and physical health. This has been proven true for any age, gender, culture, social class, or personality type. Expressive writing in a journal for as little as fifteen minutes a day can produce long-term health benefits such as fewer doctor visits, improved mood, and an overall feeling of greater well-being.

Our past is one big story; within that story are many smaller stories that made us who we are today. Some of those stories are painful. Some of them pose unanswered questions. Some of them may even reveal feelings that were never truly faced or dealt with. Expressively writing in a journal—the simple act of converting emotions, thoughts, and images into words—changes the way your brain organizes and thinks about the trauma.

In some cases, once the event is written down it becomes less painful to store and can be less of a burden emotionally.

You will never truly forget about your experiences, but by writing them down, even just for your own eyes to see, your story begins to have less power over you and you can regain your own power.

By releasing the hold that past events have over you, you will have more emotional room for your dreams to take flight.

2. Write a Letter

I began my own writing process of healing when I started writing letters to my best friend after she passed away. She was just seventeen and we had the whole world ahead of us. Because she left suddenly, I didn’t get to say goodbye, and writing to her allowed me the opportunity to say that and so much more. Writing letters to her became a daily activity to release questions, anger, and sadness.

You can choose to write to someone who has abruptly left your life through a broken relationship, death or other circumstance; by writing down all your thoughts and feelings, you will allow yourself the opportunity to say all the things that you may need to in order to forgive, let go, or move on.
I chose to publish some of those letters in my book, Heaven Has No Regrets, but you may choose to destroy the letters by ripping them up and throwing them away, burning them, or tossing them into the ocean.

The act of writing the letter is ultimately the most freeing and rewarding release, no matter what you choose to do with it.

3. Keep a Gratitude Journal

According to researcher Robert A. Emmons, there is increasing evidence that suggests gratitude is a key component in continually creating positive improvements in an individual’s well-being. In studies, clinically-depressed individuals tested as having 50 percent less gratitude than non-depressed individuals. Further studies showed that by writing down just five things a day, individuals felt more joy, enthusiasm, energy, and felt better about their lives and their futures as a whole.

By keeping a small journal by your bed and writing in it just five things in your day that you were grateful for, you will be choosing to focus on what you have positively experienced rather than the negative moments or the things that the day lacked. By being more aware of the positive moments, people, and places in your life, over time you may find yourself adding ten or fifteen things to your list at night. Gratitude not only strengthen your social relationships, but it can also combat negative depressive states and can assist in more easily overcoming times of stress.

With these three writing tools, you can begin a very personal journey of self-reflection and self-healing to find a deeper connection with your past, your present, and your future by writing about your experiences, how they’ve changed you, and who you’d like to become. I encourage you to find your inner voice, discover your power, and uncover gratitude along the way.


Baikie, Karen A., and Kay Wilhelm. “Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing.” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11, 5 (September 2005): 338–436; DOI: 10.1192/apt.11.5.338.

Emmons, Robert A. "Gratitude, subjective well-being, and the brain." The Science of Subjective Well-being (2008): 469–489.

Emmons, Robert A., and Anjali Mishra. "Why gratitude enhances well-being: What we know, what we need to know." Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward (2011): 248–262.

Neimeyer, Robert A. "Re-storying loss: Fostering growth in the posttraumatic narrative." Handbook of Posttraumatic Growth: Research and Practice (2006): 68–80.

Pennebaker, James W., and Janel D. Seagal. "Forming a story: The health benefits of narrative." Journal of Clinical Psychology 55.10 (1999): 1243–1254.

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