Write It Out

Dylan Schueler (’23) writes about the ways that writing and self-expression can support our mental health.

As I assume most people may already know, writing can be used for many different things. It’s something we use in our everyday lives whether we realize it or not. From school assignments, to note taking, to texting friends, to careers, etc. we are constantly writing. However, how often do we write to express ourselves personally? Some people may have diaries, and others may have text strings between their friends that they use to express their feelings, but something that I don’t think is used often enough is mental health journaling. The definition of mental health is “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being”. While mental health sometimes seems to have a negative connotation with it, it’s something that every person obtains. It’s also something that is personable and should be expressed rather than kept in. One very beneficial way of expressing thoughts or feelings is through writing or journaling. 

Studies have shown that journaling is very closely affiliated with improving mental health. According to URMC- Rochester University, it can help to manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression, control symptoms, improve your mood, prioritize problems, fears, and concerns, while also allowing for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts. Last year, I decided to devote my badge project in the writing center to creating a safe space for people to express themselves through writing in a practice called “Time To Write It Out”. My main goal was to spread mental health awareness while creating a safe space for people to write about their feelings. I wanted to bring positive attention to peoples’ emotions through writing. Writing is a judgment free space that allows for people to express their emotions to themselves and to those they choose to. It can help people to realize how they actually feel. I wanted to express these benefits through an open writing space during both hours of lunch for multiple sessions. I didn’t want to pressure students to write so there was also a choice of drawing responses to the prompts. Some writing prompt ideas that I had found and used were from Port St. Lucie Hospital. The examples are listed below: 

  1. Talk about your day
  • Try to relate events in your day to how they made you feel. It can help you identify trends in your behaviors and how those impact your mental health. 
  1. Identify things you’re grateful for
  • Finding things you can be grateful for may be difficult when you have a mental illness, but by recognizing reasons to be grateful, you can start to create a more positive outlook on life. 
  1. Describe a goal
  • What are you working towards? Write it out and explain how you’re going to reach that goal. “Dreams don’t chase you back,” so don’t be afraid to go after what you want. Keep only positive goals to help you stay motivated. 
  1. Write a list of your coping mechanisms
  • Evaluate which mechanisms are working for you. Rate each coping mechanism on a scale of 0-5 to see which one helps to calm you down the most. This will show you what coping mechanisms can stay, and which ones should maybe be retired. 
  1. Write about how different you were 5 years ago
  • Everyone is constantly changing. It can be easy to forget when you’re dealing with mental health or stress. Try to recognize the ways that you’ve grown over the years. Give yourself credit for being better and wiser than you were. 
  1. Write a letter to your body
  • Mental illness often changes the way you perceive yourself and your body. Whether you want to write a love letter, some complaints, or a letter of apology, it’s important to address your body image. If you can recognize issues in your relationship with your body, then you can work toward fixing them.
  1. List and describe your emotions
  • What did you feel like today? List out every emotion that you went through and describe how it felt in that moment. This tool will help you identify the causes of your emotions and how you’re responding to them. 
  1. Write about how you’d describe yourself to a stranger
  • If you were going to explain who you are to a stranger, how would that go? What are your likes, dislikes, your strengths, or your weaknesses? Writing this prompt can go a long way in helping you identify how you think of yourself. 
  1. Describe the best compliment you’ve ever gotten or the best one you’ve ever given
  • What was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you? Or what was the nicest thing you have ever said to someone? How did it make you/ them feel, and how did that moment play out? 
  1. Write a message for yourself on bad days 
  • Bad mental health days happen, and there isn’t much you can do to prevent them. However, you can prepare for them by writing a message to yourself. The message can look however you want; remind yourself of happier times, point out good things in your life, and do whatever you think will mean the most to you when you’re in a bad place. 

After hosting some sessions of writing spaces, I thought that it was really beneficial. Though it was a very small turnout, I felt as though I learned a lot about what it means to benefit from writing. It’s a tool that I wanted to share with others and spread awareness around. If you ever find yourself struggling to express how you feel, or if you’re stuck between a decision, or you just have free time, try writing out your thoughts and feelings! You never know how much something can impact you until you try it!

One thought on “Write It Out”

  1. Beautifully written. I completely agree with you. I realised importance of journaling but I was hesitant to keep a journal as I was afraid that others might read it ,making me feel exposed. I started writing in a diary application on my phone. It helped me a lot in dealing with my emotions and stress. I feel relieved after writing all those confusing thoughts.


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