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The surprising ways writing can benefit your health

BY Donna Ashworth

19th Oct 2023 Inspire

1 min read

The surprising ways writing can benefit your health
We know that eating well, sleeping well and exercise, can improve our stress levels and therefore our overall health, but did you know writing can do that too?
Ask any person of medicine about stress and they will mention cortisol and how that hormone, produced in the adrenal glands when we are in heightened states of anxiety, negatively impacts our bodies if over-produced (more belly-fat, overall inflammation and dry skin/hair, to name but a few of the symptoms).
Reducing stress can begin by reducing the production of that tricky little hormone and one little-known but proven way to do that, is by writing.

Why is writing poetry good for you?

Because you're literally taking action to bring calm, to stop that sucker of a stress-soup being made.
When you pick up a pen or sit down to type your thoughts, you are picking up an invisible needle, pulling out threads from your brain and stitching them into something you can clearly see and better cope with. You are rearranging the clutter of your chaotic mind into a calm bookshelf of thoughts, feelings and "things you can control". And that brings order, just as it does when your eye falls upon a tidy wardrobe following a frantic reorganise…you can see what you need for that day, and the rest just looks "sorted".
"Writing rearranges the clutter of your chaotic mind"
Imagine with me now, a room full of dirty clothes, clean clothes, clutter and chaos, as far as the eye can see. Piles of stuff everywhere and you cannot find a thing. It’s heartbeat raising stuff. And then imagine that same room, instantly tidied, Sabrina the Teenage Witch-style, everything in its place and perfectly put. Feels lovely right?
That’s just the start.
The mind can be a messy place, with your inner critic, the daily news and too many to-do lists, fighting to be heard above your imposter syndrome, your anxiety and your fears.
Writing instructs all of those things to form an orderly queue and wait to be registered, ticked off, addressed, listened to and marked either "do this today", "this can wait" or "this was never your burden to hold—set it down".
Donna Ashworth author photo June 23 c
And then, when you have waded through the shallows of your too-busy brain, you may even come to the deeper water of your feelings. The things you never say out loud and the traumas you have secreted away. They seem impenetrable and terrifying but if you begin to write them down you will perform a very clever act of magic…shining light into the darkness takes away the illusion, the scariness…as the poem "Shadows" from my Wild Hope collection explains quite well.
“We have all awoken sharply, startled in the night, suddenly fearful of the brooding shadow in the corner of our room. Hearts beating loudly in our ears we scramble for the light, only to be greeted by a pile of clothes on a chair. Life is like that. Shine light into the dark corners of your mind. Take a good look at the scary parts you are afraid to enter into. They are quite different once that light is on. They cannot hold any power over you, in the burning glare of your shine. Light them up my friends. Light up the ghosts and scare them away…for good."

The benefits of putting pen to paper

Removing the atmosphere of fear from your over-burdened brain is a sure fire way to better relaxation, better sleep and better health. And because you have made space in that head of yours, space for new ideas, for thoughts of self-care and open invitations to life; you are far more likely to make good decisions afterwards.
You will consequently eat better, the validation of your achievements will encourage kind choices. You may even exercise more, knowing you are not being taunted by the ghosts of things undone. And you will certainly be in for more peaceful sleep—no anxiety train strapping you in for a ride through all the ways you have messed up in your life, followed by a jaunt through "what if this goes wrong" scenarios.
"Sit down, cuppa in hand. And start scribbling away"
Writing down the words which have been eating away at you from the inside out is a wonderful way to eradicate the noise in your head and put it on paper instead.
If you wish to further clear, rearrange and heal the chaos inside, discussing the things you have written with others who will listen without judgement is the very next level up from this, and the fall-out of that is fantastically life-affirming and healing.
But start somewhere, if you can. Get that shiny new journal you fell in love with in the bookshop that day out. Sit down, cuppa in hand. And start scribbling away.
Wild Hope: Healing Words to Find Light on Dark Days by Donna Ashworth (Black & White Publishing) is out 26th September
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