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  • Writer's pictureJaveria Fatima Zaidi

Expressive Writing: A Therapeutic Practice to Improve Your Life

When I was going through severe depression and anxiety, one of the things I regularly felt was helplessness; I often felt that I was an inconsequential speck in the ocean of life, being carried away by the current, and unable to do anything about it.

My head would feel foggy with a million thoughts and a hundred voices, all vying for space. But it seemed I was at capacity, and my skull would literally burst. Of course, that never happened, but that's what it felt like.

What helped during those times, was writing. And not necessarily ‘good writing’, either; a word-vomit, verbal-diarrhoea, scribble-avalanche type of writing. I didn’t know it then, but this type of writing had a name: therapeutic writing, or expressive writing.

Expressive Writing didn’t demand that I follow the rules of spellings and grammar; it didn’t care whether I remembered to apply the ‘Rule of 3’ or clearly state my intentions for the reader. No, it was a comfort simply to scratch out my thoughts onto a piece of paper, to give my frazzled brain the gift of focusing on something other than itself and its failings, to move my hand without having to exert much of the precious little energy I had.

Over years and years of building this writing practice, I realised that the more I wrote, the more clarity I gained. It was like a decluttering of sorts; when I brushed the debris of my doubts from my mind into my diary, I was freeing up space for new ideas to flourish. Eventually my brain was able to birth hope for a better future, in the form of goals and plans and step-by-step instructions.

If you’ve ever felt this way, you might want to give Expressive Writing a try.

Expressive Writing is a therapeutic practice that involves writing out your thoughts and emotions on paper. It's a way to release all those pent-up feelings and ideas and gain clarity on HOW you're feeling, WHY you’re feeling that way, and WHAT you can do about it. It is one of the most inexpensive ways to improve your mental health.

The beauty of Expressive Writing is that it doesn't have to be anything fancy or complex. All you need is a pen and paper, and you're good to go. It's a practice that can be done any time you need a bit of stress relief: at home, at work, or on the go (this is why I always have a pen and small notepad on me at all times. Its like my very own non-medicinal medicine.)

So, how does Expressive Writing work?

It's simple - just start writing!

You can write about anything that comes to mind, whether it's a past experience that's been weighing on your mind or a future goal you're working towards. The key is to let your thoughts flow freely onto the page without worrying about grammar or structure. The act of writing itself is incredibly therapeutic and helps you process your emotions in a healthy way (the unhealthy ways being suppressing them, eating your feelings, or getting stuck in a cycle of rumination, among others). And, let’s face it: as a highly sensitive woman, you experience emotions more deeply than your non-HS counterparts; making it all the more important for you to practice sustainable self-care and take care of your emotional health.

Research has shown that Expressive Writing has numerous benefits for your mental health and well-being. For example, studies have found that it can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve sleep quality, and even boost your immune system.

(Disclaimer: please note that Expressive Writing is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment, and is not being touted as such in this article. It can, however, be a helpful supplement to therapy.)

If you're interested in giving Expressive Writing a try, here are a few tips to get started:

1) Set aside a few minutes each day to write. You don't have to spend hours writing - even just 10-15 minutes a day can make a big difference.

2) Find a quiet and comfortable space to write. This could be a private room in your house or a cozy coffee shop - whatever works best for you.

3) Don't worry about structure or grammar. The goal is to let your thoughts flow freely onto the page without judgment.

4) Be consistent. Like any practice, Expressive Writing works best when done regularly. Try to make it a habit and stick with it for at least a few weeks.

If you’re feeling stuck about what to write, you can find some prompts here and here. I also regularly share prompts from other pages on my Instagram page, Pen&Heal. To really ensure you never miss an update, make sure to follow AND add my page to favourites.

While writing on your own can be therapeutic in its own way, if you want to harness the power of Expressive Writing to set and achieve meaningful goals, working with an Expressive Writing Coach is a gamechanger. Not only are you now accountable for writing regularly, you receive guidance and support from someone who has the necessary experience. Having some dedicated time to discuss YOU and YOUR WRITING will also enable deeper exploration into your subconscious. This is markedly different to having a conversation with a friend, where a friend, to display empathy, may often reply with an anecdote from their life. Since the coach is not there to swap life stories, the entire focus of each session remains on you and your needs. This automatically ensures that you get a truly customised and tailor-made plan, the agenda of which is to support you in your endeavours.

To book a free consultation, feel free to get in touch with me at:

(Details and charges of my coaching packages can be found here)

Regardless of whether you decide to work with a coach or go solo, give Expressive Writing a try - you might be surprised at how much it helps.

Remember, it's a simple and accessible practice that anyone can do, no matter how busy or stressed you might feel. So grab a pen and paper, and start writing your way to a happier, healthier life!

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