I was in a conversation with someone I met at an event recently and, as tends to happen when you meet someone new, we asked questions about what we enjoy spending time on.
After we'd talked about some of the experiences we'd had in recent months, and I shared the journey I'd been on with my writing, I was asked:
"Do you think your writing can help heal you?"
"Oh yes, one thousand percent", I found myself saying. Somewhere along the line (in fact: many times along the line), I've found myself realising that my writing practice has been such an important part of my growth and healing.
Others have also shared with me their personal testimonies when it comes to writing; folks who have been through trauma and addiction all kinds of struggles (and have been diagnosed with PTSD, complex-PTSD... the list goes on) have shared with me how writing - has been an intervention that has brought about deep healing.
And yet, when I asked how writing can be healing... I can find myself trying to explain why.
I'm not sure it's possible to put it into words, but I do think it's important to try.
I see it as a sort of duty to help others come to writing, or at least make them aware that writing is a wonderful tool.
I also think that the magic of writing - and other forms of artistic self-expression - are slowly being discovered and realised by "the world" at large, and writing is perhaps where meditation was a few years ago... thanks to the likes of the Headspace app which has truly gone mainstream (it even has its own little series on Netflix), many people are aware of benefits that come with meditation, and it's now being used by millions around the world as a practice to manage mental ailments and as a proactive way for staying grounded and well. I see this as a very good thing.
And this is why I found it interesting when I learned that writing helps nourish the brain and the nervous system in a similar way that meditation does.
Research has shown, for example, that journalling induces theta waves in the brain much the same way that meditation does.
It’s an intervention for all demographics, and I would argue that it's one of the most accessible practices in the world; requiring something to write with and something to write on, as simple as a pen and paper.
I mention all demographics. One recent study (2020) involving college students found that journalling was the most effective intervention of all - compared with exercise, therapy and meditation. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of studies carried out involving journalling and adolescents.
For mothers, fathers, sons and daughters - of all backgrounds - journalling is a trusty practice that can ground and anchor us as we go through every stage of life.
Whilst I am already long sold on the benefits of writing, I think that scientific backing can only help writing come to be better understood and known as a valid, tangible intervention in our lives as a source of meaningful insight and healing.
And so whether, whilst you are reading this, you are deeply aware or not-at-all-aware of the power of writing, I wanted to share this with you.
Writing can bring about the very benefits of meditation, to our minds and our bodies.
There are many of us who have experience the benefits for ourselves and, increasingly, the science is documenting this, too.