Could writing a book help you heal from mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety?
At some point in their lives, nearly everybody will be impacted by situational or clinical depression. While there is no substitute for appropriate medical care and therapy, people struggling with depression often find that adding in positive activities such as exercising, meditation or yoga often helps to mitigate symptoms. One activity that is often overlooked, however, is writing. In fact, writing a book might be just what you need to help with your depression.
Writing a book! Are you crazy?
Yes, writing a book. However, before we go any further, let’s keep a few things in mind…
- There’s no pressure or deadline here;
- You can certainly dabble in freewriting or journaling before you begin;
- There are lots of writing support groups that will help you no matter what stage of writing you are in.
So, knowing that this is a safe process that you can approach at your own speed, let’s explore the 7 ways in which writing a book can help you as you work through depression, anxiety, or other issues.
You’ll Have Something to do Late at Night
Many people struggling with depression or other mental health issues suffer from insomnia. Even worse, the late night and early morning hours are often times where you might hyper-focus on regrets or mistakes. On the other hand, these are also hours where you likely feel awake and productive.
If you have an active writing project, such as a book in progress, you can spend this time working on that, rather than simply ruminating on your darker thoughts.
You Can Explore Your Emotions Through Your Characters
If you struggle with depression, you don’t need to be told that the emotions you experience aren’t limited to sadness. Depression can encompass hurt, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and more. As you work on your book, you have the opportunity to create a variety of complex characters.
If you like, each character can become a means to explore your own emotions. For example, you can explore feelings of anger or frustration by writing an antagonist who represents those feelings and humanizes them at the same time.
Dialogue is a Great Way to Work Through Conflict
Depression and conflict are frequent partners. It can cause conflict in your relationship with others, especially when people close to you don’t understand depression or lack empathy. Depression certainly causes inner conflict.
For example, you may struggle with the need to stay in bed to rest and recharge on your worst days, while you also need to get up and be productive. It’s not unusual for people with depression to have some intense inner dialogue happening. If you can get that dialogue out onto the page, you might find that you can bring some of these conflicts to a resolution.
Each Finished Paragraph Page or Chapter Is Cause for Celebration
If you’ve ever been in the throes of an intense period of depression, you know that productivity becomes a real issue. You might struggle to get things accomplished at work, or if you are a college student to finish your assignments on time. It’s hard to get much done when you are hurting emotionally, and often physically. On the other hand, during these times, small accomplishments can really mean a lot.
Because of this, setting small goals, then meeting them is extremely important. If you are working on writing a book, you can set goals for finishing chapters, pages, or even paragraphs. Then, be sure to celebrate these victories.
You Can Connect With Other Writers
The writing community is one of the most supportive communities there is. Chances are, your local library or independent bookstore has at least one active writer’s support group. These groups often meet on a regular basis to offer one another support and constructive criticism.
These meetings provide a great opportunity to share your progress, discuss story ideas, and even get help if you are stuck. If you are looking for a very supportive and low key socialization opportunity, you will also find that these get-togethers are perfect for that as well.
Writing Can be a Comforting Ritual
For people struggling with depression, rituals can become quite important. Even something as simple as a morning cup of coffee, or a Saturday afternoon routine of watching favorite shows on Netflix can be extremely comforting. Writing is another task that can be added to your regular routine.
First, you will find yourself forcing you to write. Then, it will become a habit. Finally, it will become a ritual that you look forward to. It is these things that can help keep you going when you are struggling with dark thoughts.
Even if You Don’t Finish Your Book, Writing Can Become a Regular Part of Your Life
Maybe, you will finish your book someday. Maybe it will be good enough to submit to a publisher. Maybe, you won’t finish your book. Any one of these outcomes is perfectly fine. You can still gain the therapeutic benefits of writing.
In fact, you might even decide to explore other forms of writing such as freewriting, poetry, or journaling. Eventually, you can add writing to your arsenal of tools that can help you through periods of depression.
Whether you decide to jump in with both feet and begin working on your book right away, or you start slowly with blogging or short stories, writing can be extremely helpful when it comes to relieving some of your depression symptoms. If nothing else, writing is free, and it can help you to gain some very useful insights into yourself and your thinking.
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