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Writing Down Your Secrets Can Make You Mentally Healthier, Study Finds

Writing Down Your Secrets Can Make You Mentally Healthier, Study Finds

You’ll be surprised at what a simple pen and paper can do for your emotional well-being. We’ve probably done one or two things during our lifetime we’re so ashamed of that we choose to shove it under the rug and totally omit it from our lives.

And if you’re thinking that those problems will stay under that rug without any consequences, think again, because surprisingly it could be doing some damage to your brain. Expressive writing could be one of the simple solutions on how to improve mental health.

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Keeping Secrets Damages Your Brain

According to a neurosurgeon and chief executive of PINGMD, your prefrontal cortex is the one that’s in charge of decision making, complex thoughts, and deception. When you keep a secret, you’ll be imagining a bunch of possible bad outcomes, that’s because your brain’s orbital prefrontal cortex is telling you how bad keeping a secret can be. It results in you being edgy most of the time and in some serious cases, paranoia sets in.

When paranoia sets in, cortisol, which is a stress hormone spikes up and there are many things that cortisol can do to your body and your brain. It can impact your memory, metabolism, blood pressure and even the part of the brain where responses and attention are controlled.

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Expressive Writing Can Save Your Brain

The reason why we become anxious when secrets are kept in our brain is because we are thinking about them too quickly. Like a freight train moving at 200km/h, there are so many thoughts about the consequences in your head, you can’t keep up.

One of the ways is to slow down which will help you to ruminate less about the problem and consequences is to write these secrets down into words. By giving them concrete form, it helps us to categorise them in newer ways. By writing about a disturbing event, we tend to think about it better in a less threatening context.

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Although there is no concrete evidence to explain this unusual phenomenon that works for many, it is most probable that writing our secrets down can help us to understand the unknown because what we don’t know causes the greatest anxiety.

Be Your Own Researcher

How to improve mental health through expressive writing? You would have to take note that writing shouldn’t be out trying to explain what happened but more on how you felt about what happened. An expressive writing research was developed by Dr. James Pennebaker and so far, it has nothing but positive outcomes. Today, you will find out more on expressive writing by carrying out a simple exercise to help you understand your situation better. With this report, you will have to write for about 20 minutes each day for 4 days.

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The instructions to write this report are as such:

  1. Write twenty minutes a day for four consecutive days.
  2. Write the topic as your secret is and it should be extremely personal and important
  3. Don’t stop writing and don’t care about spelling, grammar or punctuation. Keep pen on paper!
  4. Write only for yourself and not for anyone else.
  5. Avoid writing anything that will push you over the edge. Once you encounter this, stop writing and take a breather before going at it again.
  6. You’re going to feel sad and down once you begin this exercise and that’s normal. Give it a few hours and the feeling will subside.

In this exercise, you’re encouraged to write down your deepest and most genuine feelings about what happened and it has to be emphasised that the writing form should only be for your eyes only. Be patient and compassionate with your yourself and if you are afraid about someone reading it, shred it right after writing it.

A few weeks later, you are encouraged to write about how you felt about the writing process and how it has helped to understand your situation better. We hope that this simple exercise can help you gain clarity and help you get back on the path on becoming a calmer and better person.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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