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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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Lim Kairen

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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