Recently, I took a course that focused on life writing and was surprised by the therapeutic benefits it offered. For me, life writing felt a lot like journaling, and I found it to be exceptionally reflective. Then I thought… there are tons of things I can do for myself that feel like therapy. Why not take relaxation into my own hands?

Creative Outlets

As simple as writing may seem, it has a way of freeing the mind of chaos and helping you to focus. Maybe you had a bad day, and you want to jot down lines of negativity to get them out of your head. Maybe you had a great day, and you want to capture the moments you loved most before forgetting them. Journaling can help you better comprehend various situations in your life and allow you to reflect back on them so that you can feel more in control of your thoughts.

As humans, we may see our lives as stories. When you life write, you’re constructing a positive and linear narrative to reflect on. Basically, it’s a creative way to organize your life. According to the Clinical Psychology Review, life writing has the benefits of improved physical health and positive behavior change. When you write about your life, you have the power to put yourself in various roles, which can help you to analyze a situation from different viewpoints.  

Another creative therapy lies in the process of painting, drawing, sketching or even doodling. Now I know what you’re probably thinking, and I’m no artist either. But there’s something particularly therapeutic about filling up a blank piece of paper with mindless scribbles. Whether you consider it artwork or not, this activity can relax your mind and erase daily stress.

Breathing Methods

Not only is breathing one of the easiest forms of therapy, but deep breathing has been proven to lower high blood pressure. Sure, it’s something we’re constantly doing, but it’s not until you place focus on inhaling and exhaling that your body is able to benefit from it therapeutically. Here are two deep breathing exercises that are extremely healing for the body and mind.

The Stimulating Breath

  • Keep your mouth closed, but relaxed.
  • Inhale and exhale quickly through your nose.
  • Each breath in and out should be equal in duration, and as short as possible.
  • Repeat the exercise three times.
  • Return to normal breathing.

The Counting Breath

  • Exhale through your mouth making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while counting to four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Repeat twice.
  • Return to normal breathing.

Positive Thinking

Do you see the glass half full or half empty? Aside from writing and breathing, positive thinking is surprisingly therapeutic. When you think positively, you’re approaching an unpleasant situation in a productive way. Instead of thinking about the worst-case scenario, try to image that the best is going to happen. A great way to think positively is to set a goal for yourself every morning. Your goal can be simple, like “be productive” or specific, such as “smile at a stranger.” This kind of positive thinking can improve your mood for the rest of the day.

Another constructive way to think positively is to engage in positive self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head daily. It’s important to make sure that your inner thoughts are optimistic and constructive, so that you can frame situations in a positive light.

 Sources:
http://current.com/102904c
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
http://www.researchgate.net/journal/0272-7358_Clinical_Psychology_Review

Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living