I’m the type of person who spends too much time inside my head. When something goes wrong or bothers me, I tend to dwell on it for hours, if not days.
I often find myself caught in thought loops, thinking about the same problems again and again. I’ll debate with myself and worry, but I won’t get any closer to actually solving the issue that I’m thinking about.
In fact, instead of solving my problems, I have a way of talking myself into making them even worse.
When I was trying to quit smoking last year, I’d think about how to resist my cravings for days on end. Dwelling on the cravings just made them even worse. I’d debate with myself over whether to buy a pack of cigarettes constantly until I finally gave in. I went back to smoking many times before finally quitting the habit for good.
A similar thing happens when I start feeling a wave of depression. Instead of trying to ignore it, or working through it in some healthy way, I just start thinking about everything wrong in my life. I end up thinking of increasingly upsetting things, sometimes even building to a panic attack.
To escape these awful feelings, I’ve needed to find ways to get out of my head.
Therapy has been a huge help. Talking with a mental health professional has given me an outlet for my feelings and taught me a lot about the way I think. But, it’s also a fairly limited outlet, because I’ve typically only gone once every month. Even when I used to go weekly, that still left 6 days each week without therapy.
Another good way to get out of my head is to talk to friends. They can provide someone to bounce ideas off of or even just a sympathetic ear. The downside here is that friends aren’t always available, and I also don’t want to dump my problems on anyone too often. Endless complaining is a sure way to make any friend resent you.
Fortunately, when therapists and friends aren’t available, there’s a great alternative: writing.
How Writing Helps
Writing is inherently an act of externalization. We take the ideas in our head, and put them down on paper. By simply taking this step, I’ve found that I tend to stop repeating the ideas so often in my head.
Writing gives structure to what I’m thinking about. Instead of getting caught in a loop, I’m able to reason through my thoughts and make actual progress towards solving my problems.
Writing isn’t just about expressing what I’m already thinking — writing is a method of think in and of itself.
As far as thinking methods go, writing is much more effective than trying to balance all of my thoughts in my mind. It’s easier to follow my thoughts when they’re on paper, which keeps me from repeating the same things to myself.
After I finish writing, I haven’t always solved my problems, but I’ve at least made progress. Each time I write, I develop a better understanding of myself.
Developing a Routine
Even though writing always helps me feel better, I’m not always in the mood to write. Sometimes, it can feel like I’m really forcing myself to sit down and actually get started writing something.
To help with this, I’ve tried to make writing a part of my daily routine. Although I don’t write literally every day, I do try to do it on nearly every weekday. I’ve stopped thinking of it as an optional part of my day, and instead just made it something that I do. It’s as much a part of my routine as taking a shower or brushing my teeth.
By writing so regularly, I reduce how often I get caught up in my thoughts. It gives me a constant outlet so that all of my stress and worries don’t overflow.
Another huge benefit of writing is that it helps me connect with others who have experienced the same problems and emotions as myself. Although writing would surely still be helpful if I just did it in a private journal, one of the things I like about posting it online is that it sometimes gets read by someone who is going through the same things as me.
Often, what I write verbalizes what someone else was thinking about but couldn’t quite put into words. When I’m on the reading side of things, I notice the same thing — I frequently find blog posts that capture my thoughts better than I ever could.
Writing is a great way of finding shared connections. It’s helped me discover how much I have in common with others. My mental health problems, which sometimes feel so isolating, truly aren’t as rare as they feel.