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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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