Everyone knows about the benefits of physical exercise, and how to go about doing it. We might not do it regularly (or willingly!), but I think we can all agree that it makes us feel better both in body and mind. Exercise de-stresses and energises at the same time. But what about exercising our minds? Writing can also be a great stress release.
Running vs writing
When I was out jogging the other day, it struck me that starting to run is a lot like starting to write. There’s usually a goal involved, whether it’s managing around the block without stopping or getting 500 words down on paper. The key to success is making it a habit and part of your daily life.
Starting to run is hard and often we set expectations too high and then give up when those unrealistic goals are not met. Starting to write is much the same. Will you begin by drafting 1000 words per day of beautifully crafted prose? Most likely not. Just as with running, small achievable goals will encourage you to keep going. When you start to see and feel the benefits, that’s when the whole thing becomes fun. And addictive!
But what about mindfulness and meditation, I hear you say. Aren’t these tried and tested methods for training and calming your mind? I would say that writing can be both mindful and meditative. If you are like me and have a mind that hops around like a deranged grasshopper, then you are aware of the challenges with mindfulness exercises. My mind responds better when I put pen to paper. Writing focuses my thoughts and I get the attention of the grasshopper for a moment.
Running also lends itself to mindfulness. I used to run with my headphones blaring out energetic music to keep me going. But I realised that the music was an unnecessary distraction and I now much prefer to run in silence. Just me, the pavement and my thoughts. Focussing on my breathing and my running technique is mindfulness in action (literally). Running clears my head and I come up with some interesting stuff while I’m out doing it. Which I promptly write down when I get home of course.
Mindful writing will help to calm your thoughts and make sense of whatever it is that is stressing you out. Free flow writing, when you just dump your mind on a page without thinking about it, can make you feel both relaxed and energised once you get into a routine of a daily dose.
Just like physical exercise, the key to writing is persistence and willingness to push yourself a little. Once you get into it, the rewards will make it totally worthwhile.
Try free flow writing:
Grab a pen and an A4 notebook (no electronic devices please!). Set a timer for 10 minutes and start writing whatever comes up in your head. It doesn’t have to make sense or be grammatically correct and forget about spelling. Just write down the thoughts as they come. The key is to NOT STOP until the timer goes off.