What if there was a form of therapy – a therapist so to speak – who was always available (for free!) and always listened? That therapist is indeed at your fingertips 24/7, even when you are alone. All you need is a pen and paper or your friendly computer.
Most of us know that journaling has been shown to improve both emotional and physical health. Writing can help clear the mind, enhance your mood, alleviate stress, free up energy and awaken creativity – and therapeutic writing can be pretty fun too.
Try the prompts below to help relax your body, create more mindfulness, and give yourself a little love!
1) Feel it and Heal it—an exercise in somatic awareness.
-Take seven to ten minutes to do a written body scan. Begin at your toes and describe how they feel. Tingly or cold? Heavy or light? Tense or relaxed? Do your toes have any history, perhaps you recall breaking or stubbing one? Now, move up your body with awareness of your feet, calves, thighs, hips, all the way to your face and the crown of your head. Write about each part of your body, describing the sensations in detail and listening for anything that body part might want to tell you.
-This is also a chance to talk to your body. Has your knee been bothering you? Is your eyesight getting worse? Feel free to express your frustration with any physical challenges you may have.
-Appreciation is in order as well. Perhaps you take your nose for granted. Now you have an opportunity to thank it for giving you a sense of smell and the gift of breath. Take time to acknowledge the pleasure you derive from your body.
-If you suffer from depression or anxiety, identify where that exists in your body. Does your depression live as a heaviness in the chest? Does your anxiety manifest as flutters in the belly? Each of us experience depression and anxiety differently. Describe each quality of your discomfort. What is the shape and density of your depression? The color and weight of your anxiety? Does that knot in your throat hold a reservoir of tears? Visualize the knot dissolving so that the tears can flow.
You will undoubtedly notice a release as you become more acutely aware of what’s going on within your body. You may also realize how wonderful it is to develop a more intimate relationship with your life-long home!
A good follow-up for the exercise above is to write down three things you can do to be friendlier with your body. Exercise should be at the top of this list, as it is a sure way to lift your mood and reduce stress. Numbers two and three are up to you. A relaxing bath perhaps? Might you benefit from scheduling a massage? Do you need to change any eating habits? Drink more water?
Now that we have played with the idea of being more mindful in our bodies – let’s look outside. This second exercise, which is called Savor the Moment, is designed to elevate your mood and help you develop more mindfulness in your daily life.
2) Find a moment in your day that brought you joy.
It could be something tiny, like when you had a pleasant exchange with a clerk, or you noticed something beautiful in nature. Now recall the moment, using each of your senses, sight, sound, smell, touch, and expand on it, stretch it out, savor that feeling in writing. If you do this in your journal on a daily basis, you will become more aware of the pleasurable moments in even the worst of days.
Lastly, depression can be thought of as anger turned inward. Perhaps a tonic to release some of that self-abuse is this exercise in self-love:
3) Pretend you can give yourself an amazing gift. It can be anything from nature—a flower, a bolt of lightning, a ray of sunshine, a river.
Write what you would give yourself and why. What will you do with your sunset or rainbow or wave? And perhaps most importantly, how does it feel to give your self such a powerful, loving gift?
These suggestions may not cure-alls, but you will feel a difference!
Diane Sherry Case, author of Write for Recovery, is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer. Case developed Write for Recovery™ while teaching creative writing in prisons and high schools, and has expanded her coaching to help therapists utilize writing to heal their patients. Case has her Master’s Degree in both Psychology and Creative Writing.
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