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Calm Your Mind With Expressive Writing

Calm Your Mind with Expressive Writing

    • What do you do in your mind just will not calm down?

    • What do you do when you’re stuck in a very strong emotional reaction to something?

    • What do you do when your mind is so busy thinking about thoughts from your day that you can’t fall asleep?

A busy mind is one of our biggest problems. It is a main contributor to both anxiety and insomnia (as well as chronic pain).

We can’t just let our minds keep dwelling on the same thoughts over and over. We need to find a way to let the brain process and release whatever is keeping us upset, worried, or over-focused on To Do lists and tasks.

How to do a Brain Dump (aka Expressive Writing)

Here’s a super simple writing exercise that helps with emotional release, stress relief, and better sleep.

Expressive Writing is done with pen and regular old paper (not a keyboard or other device). Write down your thoughts with complete abandon, with no editing or censoring.

Try to capture the exact words that are running through your head and write as fast as you can. You can use abbreviations and swear words if that is what is there. This is for your eyes only.

Do not stop to ponder, analyze or choose your words – just try to write as fast as the thoughts are streaming through your mind (impossible, but focus on trying).

Write continuously for 15 minutes minimum. Set a timer and try to get as much on the paper as you can in those 15 minutes.

Once you are finished, immediately destroy your pages! Rip them up into tiny little pieces. Enjoy the process of ripping them up! It can be very satisfying.

Then throw them away where no one else can find them. I like to take my ripped-up pieces and literally take them out of my house and put them in a bin. There is something symbolic and satisfying about literally removing all of those thoughts from your mind, your personal space, and even your home.

Calm will follow.

Expressive Writing vs. Journaling

This is not the same as journaling! When we journal, we are reflective and thoughtful about what we write. We might be analyzing or thinking things through or making lists.

Expressive writing as the opposite of that! The goal is to write stream-of-consciousness style, as fast as you can to capture the busy thoughts in your mind.

When to do it?

Make Expressive Writing a daily practice. I bet you will come to enjoy it making it a part of your regular self-care routine.

Do it an extra time per day when you are particular anxious or upset about something.

You do expressive writing any time of day, but early evening is a good time to let go of stress from you day. Right after work can also be a nice time to do it, to let go of work stressors and transition into your personal time.

** This expressive writing practice was adapted from Dr. David Hanscom at He recommends it to help with chronic pain and it is great for that too!

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