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

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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.

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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 November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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