A Daily Writing Ritual Can Improve Your Mental Wellness

A Daily Writing Ritual Can Improve Your Mental Wellness

After a brief, informal brainstorming session on content ideas for Dirty Good, it struck me that my first habit I would highlight for our Nourishing Habits column should be exactly what I am trying to do by creating this: resurrect a daily writing ritual. During our initial time living on the road way back in 2017, we stuck to a firm practice of writing, usually in the mornings before a run or ride, and developed a publishing calendar to hold each of us accountable to building an audience for Dirty Good Co. As various obstacles came and went this of course fell by the wayside. Now we find ourselves kicking each other to just get started again – stop lamenting that we are slackers, just write anything.

Even if a future as a professional writer is not in your cards, daily writing is beneficial for everybody. Journaling is well documented as an aid in managing depression and anxiety, or any other mental health challenge. Those who have suffered from chronic panic attacks or disordered eating regularly cite journaling as one of their most important tools. It’s important, though, to structure our writing a bit so that rather than continuing to simply ruminate on traumatic or stressful events we are examining our reactions, asking why we feel the way we do, and looking for ways to move on. Additionally, daily writing helps us be better communicators, better learners, and journaling encourages our creativity.

Expressive journaling has been shown to alleviate physical pain too. Studies show it can be effective in alleviating symptoms for asthma, IBS, and rheumatoid arthritis patients, and boosting immune function in those suffering from HIV/AIDS. As we know, the mental and physical bodies are inextricably connected and writing out emotions and thoughts does help us get past the stress, bringing the body back to a more relaxed state.

Regular journaling can help us as athletes. Writing out our thoughts can build confidence, narrow down goals, revive our motivation, and clarify our “why.” We might berate ourselves from time to time on poor performance or missed workouts, but we also might document those breakthrough track sessions or a particularly joyful, beautiful, blue-sky day we just had riding our bikes out in the dirt. As athletes we can use our records to look back and find patterns of what works and what doesn’t; we might notice connections between our state of mind and performance, or between daily nutrition and motivation. Journaling has been shown to improve self-confidence, self-awareness and focus.

A writing practice can take any form. Try it in the morning to organize thoughts and tasks for the day, or to set a positive mindset before heading to work. Journal at night to relax, review the day’s events, and work through some of that difficult conversation you had with a coworker. Often I find that when I write out (or talk out if I want to bore Paul with my ongoing complaints about customers at work) whatever is causing me anxiety I see that it really is something silly. Journaling can be a random stream of consciousness blabber, or it can be a list of bullet points. I’ve tended to scoff at the popular “gratitude journal” as cliche, but after working in a busy, customer service oriented setting for a couple years I do see how important it is to recognize the positive moments (that often seem far and few between). Writing down the good we are grateful for each day brings us back into the moment, out of our own nutty cluster of negative thoughts, and improves our perspective on life.

In all transparency, I write this with a pint of local microbrew fueling my typing. I realize that beer consumption might not be what everyone considers a nourishing habit, and I recognize the pervasive “year no beer” practice has been rewarding for many, however, this is the “pleasures of daily life” part of the intro for me. Healthy habits don’t have to be restrictive and if you find something brings joy without impacting your productivity or without harming yourself and others I do believe it can be considered a nourishing habit itself. So anyway, this week’s column is brought to you by 10 Barrel’s Joe IPA, mostly chosen because our apartment complex pours free beer every afternoon for residents and this was on tap. But it is delicious and classic, maybe a hint citrusy with a fine bitter punch at the end, which is how I prefer my IPAs. Cheers!