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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 June 19, 2019

How to Invest in Yourself: 3 Valuable Ways to Change Your Life

How to Invest in Yourself: 3 Valuable Ways to Change Your Life

Investing in yourself may be the most profitable investment you ever make. It yields not only future returns, but often a current pay-off as well.

The surest way to achieve a better quality life, to be successful, productive, and satisfied is to place a priority on investing in both personal and professional growth. The effort you put into consistently investing in yourself plays a large role in determining the quality of your life now and in the future.

1. Develop Your Skills

Improving your skills doesn’t always mean investing in higher education, though that’s surely an option, and perhaps a necessary one depending upon your career field. Investing in your knowledge and skills can take many forms.

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In addition, expanding your level of knowledge and skill isn’t limited to the business arena and doesn’t necessarily need to be formal. There are many “skill investment” avenues.

  • Advance your education –  extra classes, advanced degrees, relevant certifications, are all valuable investments. Take classes, either in person or online. (Lifehack also offers this Masterclass that helps you to break free from limitations.)
  • Utilize available training – enroll in workshops, attend conferences or participate in webinars.
  • Expand your knowledge – there’s a lot of information available on nearly any subject imaginable. Read books, articles, white papers, anything related to the talent or skill you want to work on.
  • Keep current – stay abreast of the latest trends or advancements. Subscribe to publications, read blogs of experts, and follow the latest news.

2. Explore Your Creative Side

There is a fountain of creativity within most of us that has never been tapped or certainly hasn’t been used to its highest potential. We may need to unearth, and hone our individual creativity.

Creativity, in any form, helps us to grow personally and professionally, to view problems and solutions in different ways and to utilize other parts of our mind that may have been previously untapped. It’s important to keep in mind that creativity has many faces. It’s far broader than being a painter or sculptor; it’s also about trying new things.

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  • Learn a new language –  take a class or use language training software.
  • Try gourmet cooking – enroll in a formal class, by a new cookbook, or ask someone you know who enjoys cooking in a different way.
  • Write something – a book, short stories, poetry, anything.
  • Explore the outside world – try gardening, bird watching, or landscape photography.
  • Enjoy music – play an instrument, learn a new one or join a music group of some kind.
  • Create something tangible – paint, sculpt, make pottery, make jewelry or design your own clothes.

Choose some form of activity that you have never tried, haven’t practiced in years, or have never explored fully.

3. Nurture Your Mind and Body

Nurturing both your mind and body allows you to have more to give now and in the future — more energy, more knowledge, more compassion, more ideas, greater strength, physical and mental endurance.

Expand your mind. Learning new things and keeping your mind active even in simple ways helps to grow and maintain your mental ability.

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  • Read – anything and everything.
  • Explore culture – attend performances, listen to different style of music, travel, or join an organization or group comprised of people from different backgrounds.
  • Open your mind – engage in conversations with those who disagree with you. Look at an argument and try to make a case for the opposing point of view.
  • Keep your mind active – play word games, (yes, even Words with Friends counts,) board games that include strategy, or try using your brain to perform simple calculations rather than relying on a calculator.

Care for your body. Your body is like a well-oiled machine. If you care for it in the way that you might maintain an expensive car, it will perform marvelously and last for a very long time. Remember the basics:

  • Give it high quality fuel – meaning to make healthy food choices as often as possible. What you eat does play a large role in your energy and ability to perform. You truly are what you eat.
  • Don’t push it too hard – meaning to rest and relax often, slow down and don’t overload your system. Also, don’t shift gears too quickly; it causes stress and damage to “your machine,” A.K.A. your body.
  • Get regular and necessary maintenance – meaning to go to the doctor when you’re sick – don’t put it off until you totally break down. Better yet, use preventative maintenance; get check-ups, take appropriate vitamins and pay attention to irregular or erratic behavior.
  • Polish the exterior – meaning to take care of the outside too. Many people dismiss this as frivolous and self-indulgent, but it’s not as long as you don’t go overboard. We’re not talking about facelifts and Botox, we’re talking about getting a fabulous haircut, and wearing clothes that make you feel confident and attractive.

The Bottom Line

Investing in yourself truly makes a difference in your life, your well-being, and your ability to thrive and perform to the best of your ability. The extent to which you invest in yourself, mind and body, not only shapes the way you interact with the outside world, it often reflects the opinion you have of yourself.

Your future is in large part determined by your willingness and ability to invest in yourself now.

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Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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