My “therapeutic writing” post: 50% more content minus 50% overly personal rambling. I think it’s 100% better–click and check it out for yourself!
As a kid, I always thought I had it pretty rough in terms of school responsibilities. That was, of course, before I grew up and found that out in the “real world” lay tons more responsibilities, more than I could have ever dreamed. Being grown-up can be very, very stressful…no wonder we’re all medicated and in therapy these days!
So, instead of trying to medicate our stress away, how about we approach it a little more creatively? How about we access some of that crazy kid energy we used to have? It’s actually still there, if we take the time to tap into it.
Create a Crazy Masterpiece…in MS Paint
Remember when art was fun, not something you worried over? Remember when the coloring of a single page in a coloring book could consume your whole being till it was done? We may not have coloring books for adults, but we have software programs that can stand in.
Keep going, focusing only on the task at hand, till you either get tired of it or you’re finished! If you get tired of it or want to start anew, no problem; if you finish it and yet don’t want to save it, no worries–kids crumple up drawings and restart all the time. (And who knows, you might just inspire yourself with the random art you create!)
Go Outside for No Reason
Kids always seem to be drawn like magnets toward the outdoors, but as adults, we somehow lose that desire to be out and about as much, especially if it doesn’t have anything to do with our jobs or our more “grown-up” relaxation time. More of us end up staying indoors where the technology (and the to-do lists) reign.
So, how about just going outside, for absolutely no reason other than to be outside? Feel the air temperature, breathe a little easier, and just be open to whatever you discover. “Enjoying the day” doesn’t have to be part of a vacation itinerary, nor does it have to be penciled in on your calendar. It can happen any time, any day you want or need it to happen. For most of us, just taking time to see the actual environment we live in would be a revelation of senses. This is not necessarily about “getting in tune with Nature,” but about experiencing the physical world around us rather than being locked in our own mental world full of deadlines and other “grown-up” stuff.
Make Up a Silly Game
In childhood, almost anything could be made into a game–remember that? We didn’t need hardly anything to create a game of our own, either to play by ourselves or to play with others. Making super-long chains of paper clips to stand in as “jump ropes” (I remember doing that–it was kinda successful, LOL), or wadding up great quantities of paper and rubber bands to make monstrous, lumpy creations that were sort of like baseballs to throw around…and making up rules as you go along, like “You can only jump over the paper-clip chain 3 times, and then you have to toss the paper ball as far as you can.”
These days, it can be hard for us to think about making our own games when so many fun technology-based games exist. But what about turning everyday tasks into little games? Like Mary Poppins said, “in every job there is an element of fun–you find the fun, and SNAP! the job’s a game!” Challenge yourself to Housecleaning Games, where collecting the most trash in the fastest time gets you points–and even more points for collecting it with style. Or turn your daily to-do list into a game where every item is a “level” to be conquered. It doesn’t matter what the game is or what the prizes are–sometimes, the prize can be in the creation of the game itself!
Imagine Something Outlandish
As children, we are taught that imagination is wonderful; as adults, we learn that imagination is “not company policy,” “not the way things are done around here,” etc. Sometimes that can really leave us stymied when it comes to creativity–we constantly self-censor and push aside the most wildly creative impulses as being “too childish.”
So, to let that childlike creativity out to play again, try the following trick: Imagine that a character from your favorite TV show/book/movie is doing something totally and hilariously out of character. Where does that action take him/her? What happens when other characters from the TV show/book/movie see or hear about this? (Here’s my example: Cinderella becomes a punk rocker and writes songs about her stepmother and stepsisters.)
Follow this story out as long as possible, adding details, making it as outlandish and funny as you want. Even when it gets kind of “awkward,” keep pursuing it–this is how you let your inner child free!
All of these ideas might sound a little silly to us “grown-ups.” But then again, we used to revel in being silly, and we had a whole lot more fun back then. We don’t have to completely give up our adult life, but we can put it aside just for a few minutes, to get back a little childlike joy. Isn’t that worth trying?
These days, I might be a blogger and novelist, but I’m also still using writing for another purpose, one which has literally saved my life several times. Instead of raging about my problems, I write about them.
How I Got Started Using Writing to Solve Anger and Sadness
I’ve always been a particularly sensitive and emotional person, and I was bullied quite a bit in school, yet I was not allowed to let out those feelings by openly crying at school, nor were my feelings understood by the staff, who believed that “kids will be kids” and I should learn to put up with the horrible treatment I endured. As you probably can guess, this became a HUGE problem over time, until I discovered that I liked to write creatively. Soon enough, I found that I could funnel what I was feeling into writing, using the activity as an emotional pressure valve.
What do I mean by that? I mean writing instead of punching, writing instead of screaming, writing instead of staying home from school just to be away from it all. I had come to love creative writing early on in my life, but beginning especially in middle school, writing became a lifeline. Whatever I felt, I wrote, in poetry that likely should never be seen by anyone else, but helped me cry out with silent paper and ink. There were times when I wrote about getting back at the people who treated me like I was sub-human (because I did get physical abuse at times from some of them), helping me to vent my frustration without hurting anyone. (Some people worried that I was going to act on what I had written, but for me, the act of writing about it was the release of it–once I had written about it, I was finished with it, and I didn’t have those feelings to that high degree anymore.)
This is how I survived school–writing (as well as music) gave me the outlets I needed. These days, I may not need as much of the “venting” space as I used to, but I know it’s still there, whenever I need it–just a few clicks away on my computer.
How You Can Start Using Your Writing as a Pressure Valve
- If something’s really bothering you, words will often come of their own accord; get a paper and pen or open a text document and go to town. Don’t edit yourself, don’t think too hard, just write. If you begin to cry (or even just get a little teary) while writing, you’re doing it right–you’re beginning to expunge the emotional poison.
- If you’re having trouble figuring out what to write about, try freewriting, either on paper or using an online freewriting exercise. Write about anything you want, just don’t stop writing. Start with a nonsense word that makes you laugh if you have to, or write about something you’re sensing in the environment around you, and then just keep going. You would be INCREDIBLY SURPRISED at what comes out of your head when you freewrite! (Another take on freewriting: The Thoughts Room)
- One exercise that works even better than the old “write a letter and don’t send it” trick, especially if you like to write fiction: Write a story about a character who feels just like you do about another person, and then–when you’re ready–write another story from the other person’s perspective. Difficult but REALLY rewarding.
- Lastly, if you’re just as stuck as ever, write one word to describe how you’re feeling. Just one word. Make up a word if you find you don’t know how to describe it any other way. How does your description make you feel? Write about those feelings. (Again, if it makes you a little teary, you’re doing it right!)
Writing can be wonderfully therapeutic, as I’ve certainly experienced over and over. How about you–do you like to use writing like this? Tell me in the comments!