First, let’s thank those ancient geniuses for coming up with an alphabet. While they might not have realized it at the time (it was only an experiment after all) writing can be a powerful therapeutic tool to help us examine our feelings, change our behavior and even heal our emotional wounds.
Recent data is proving that Writing Therapy or Journaling is a beneficial therapy for those suffering from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s also incredibly useful in learning to cope with, and alter negative patterns of thought. Who knew a daily diary could be so helpful?
Anyone breathing fresh air is familiar with negative thinking. These are creeping thoughts of insecurity, fear of an unknown future, or a nagging sense that everyone else is better than we are. In some cases, healthy adults are able to shake these thoughts and feelings and focus on the positive aspects of their lives. However, that’s not the case for everyone.
An estimated 57.7 million people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, suffer some form of diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. That is a staggering number. Patterns of negative thinking are certainly a symptom of mental health.
What are Examples of Negative Thinking?
- Perfectionism – this is a pattern of thought where someone feels that anything less than perfect in any situation, social, professional or personal, is a total failure.
- A Sense of Doom – this pattern of negative thinking revolves around thoughts that something bad is just around the corner. This makes it nearly impossible not to be in a constant state of worry and fear.
- Ignoring the Positives – in this category, the pattern of negative thoughts focus on the disappointments in life rather than the simple joys in everyday life.
- Self-Labeling – these are patterns of negative thought in which a person falsely assumes they’re not as good everyone else and they wouldn’t be loved if people knew the “real” them.
It’s easy to see why living with patterns of negative thinking can create all kinds of painful problems. The consequences inevitably lead to a poor state of mental health, and can actually make symptoms of an existing mental disorder worse.
Writing therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and over time, can help alter negative thought patterns. The premise of CBT is a simple one. Change the way you think, and you will change the way you feel, and change the way you act.
By learning to use a “thought record,” a person can write about any negative situations, thoughts and feelings. Once these items are written in a journal, a person can then examine why they feel as they do and where in their history they might have first felt that way. This helps identify patterns of thought and behavior. A “thought record” can also be used to create alternate responses to stressful situations and feelings that are more positive and self-affirming.
While some people might be comfortable writing a “thought record” on their own, many others prefer the guidance of a trained psychotherapist, psychologist or counselor. Whatever the case, taking the time to write, and developing a set of mental tools can combat negative thinking, deepen our understanding of ourselves and improve our lives.