If you’ve been feeling stressed, you’re not alone. Women’s stress levels have been spiking recently, spurred by everything from lingering pandemic concerns to workplace woes to relentlessly upsetting news cycles. Sometimes, it feels like there’s just too much going on, and you barely have time to take a breath. But that’s where self-care comes in. The practice of slowing down and checking in with yourself, whether that’s through yoga or a leisurely walk, is vital.
Self-care often comes through body-related rituals like massages or warm baths, but there’s also a powerful mental component. You probably already know that meditation boasts major stress-relieving benefits — but if you find it difficult to sit still and clear your mind of distractions (we don’t blame you!), you might want to try a more creative and active form of meditation: writing meditation. This practice is an excellent method of self-care and stress-relief, and it’s simple enough to do anytime, anywhere. Keep reading to learn how it can help you find peace.
What is writing meditation?
Writing meditation is just what it sounds like — a writing practice that focuses on the mindfulness of putting pen to paper rather than the final result. It’s similar to journaling, in that it’s meant to be private and ease some of our mental burdens; but unlike journaling, it doesn’t necessarily have to be personal.
The Buddhist magazine Tricycle says writing meditation should be a stream-of-consciousness form of observation — you can write about your thoughts or how your day is going, but you may also be moved to write about what you observe in real time, or even jot down random words or phrases that come to mind. “When I record my observations, I prioritize awareness and presence rather than productivity or accuracy,” explains Tricyle writer Lauren Krauze. “I write in a fluid and continuous way; I don’t pause to reflect on an idea or edit a sentence to improve my grammar. I just keep writing.”
This is easier said than done, of course, as the approach here is the opposite of the writing you might do in your day-to-day life. But Krauze emphasizes that writing meditation is rooted in “a full suspension of judgment and criticism” — a welcome relief from the pressures of work emails.
How can writing meditation help relieve stress?
Both writing and meditation are known to relieve stress on their own, so it’s not surprising that the combination would make for a potent form of self-care. Studies have shown that writing boosts well-being and helps with emotional processing, plus a number of studies have pointed to meditation’s effectiveness in increasing positivity and easing mental (and even, in some cases, physical) pain. Think of writing meditation as your “me time,” offering you a brief respite from anxious thoughts and daily obligations, as you sit quietly and write whatever you feel moved to.
How To Do Writing Meditation
There are no rules when it comes to writing meditation. Your writing doesn’t have to be about a certain subject or stick to a certain style. But if you need a little guidance, here’s a simple guide to get you started, adapted from yoga and meditation teacher Bhavani Lorraine Nelson. Follow the three steps below.
- Find a quiet and comfortable spot. Gather a pen or pencil and notebook, and set a timer for how long you want to practice. There’s no “right” length of time — you can even start with just five or 10 minutes if you’d like.
- Keep the pen moving, and write whatever you feel moved to until your alarm goes off.
- If, at any time, you’re not sure what to write next, write that down until you can capture the next thought. Bear in mind that this is a personal practice. No one else will ever read what you write. That means you don’t have to worry about spelling, grammar, or any of the rules you learned in school.
Avoid the temptation to put pressure on yourself. As Nelson says, writing meditation is “the act of writing down whatever comes” — which will mean different things to different people. She notes that the less you judge yourself in this process, “the freer your writing will be, and the more you’ll be able simply to observe your thoughts rather than being caught up in them.”
Don’t think you’re a good writer or meditator? That’s okay! Writing meditation doesn’t have to be for pros. It merely offers a vital opportunity to ground yourself; and the act of writing without self-judgment may empower you and even bleed into how you engage with everyday life.