3 Writing Practices for Your Mental Health

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Dr. Karin Ryan, PsyD, LP, Clinic Director, Outpatient Therapist.    Does writing have the power to make us feel better? According to Dr. Karin Ryan, Clinic Director and Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom, it does. Dr. Karin Ryan is passionate about putting thoughts on paper and helps us illustrate three writing techniques that can improve our mental health.  

Nystrom & Associates on Twin Cities Live 

Watch Dr. Karin Ryan on Twin Cities Live to learn what led to her inspiration behind discussing writing practices for your mental health.  

Write a Letter  

The first writing practice for your mental health is writing a letter. Writing a letter helps to express your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and/or frustrations.  Writing it out helps you to identify what you are feeling, what you are needing, and problem solve what might be helpful. “The process of writing it is different than just thinking it," says Dr. Karin Ryan. "Your hand is involved; you’re processing it and seeing it.”   You can even write this with the intention of never sending it and simply using it as a tool to express yourself truly. In addition, you can write a letter to loved ones who have passed away. This can help you feel connected and like you are talking to them.   Related: How to Help a Loved One With Depression


Journaling is another writing practice for your mental health. Journaling benefits your mental health and emotional awareness and can be done in whatever way fits best for you.  It helps to keep it simple and start just writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more. For example, you can write about your day and how you felt about it. How did the day go for you? What do you need? Write it down. This simple step greatly increases your awareness of triggers, what makes you feel better, and what is a challenge. Additionally, it naturally gives you time to slow down and check-in. You can add on other calming activities if you would like (tea, music, sunshine, a blanket, pet). “Journaling helps cope with symptoms, manage stress, and prioritize problems and concerns."  Related: Bipolar Disorder Symptoms & Treatment

Brain Dump 

Lastly, an intentional brain dump writing practice can better your mental health. Right before going to sleep (before laying down, while brushing your teeth, or before getting into bed), write down everything on your mind.  “For me, it tends to be a list of things I need to do the next day. It might be thoughts, especially ones that you ruminate on) or what you are worried about.”  If it is a list of tasks to complete, you can reassure yourself they are written down, and you will do them tomorrow. If they are worries, you can take a minute to problem solve what action steps might be helpful and jot them down as well. Doing so helps you to let it go on the paper, so you know you won't forget and can then focus on getting a good night's rest. Related: Are Friendships at Work a Good Thing?

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

Writing a letter, journaling, and brain dumping are all writing practices to improve your mental health. However, there are other coping skills you can include in your day to better your mental health. Therapy is a great space to learn coping skills that impact the quality of your life.   If you’re struggling with the effects of depression, stress, or anxiety, therapy can help. Talk with us at 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online.    Related: Breathing Exercises for Anxiety & Stress

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