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Writing helps you organise your thoughts and gain new insights. It helps you to put things into perspective. And it can help you deal with binge eating, with a negative self-image, and the need to keep dieting. In this blog, I’ll give you tips on how writing helps you to be kinder to yourself, and better deal with problems or even solve them.

Write down your life story, focusing on your lifestyle

If you’re now thinking ‘I can’t write, that’s not for me’, I would like to ask you to give it a try anyway. Anyone can write, trust me, we’re all making writing into this difficult thing, when it’s really not. And you’ll do it for yourself, no one else will read it. Without that outside pressure, without the feeling that someone is looking over your shoulder, you may want to give it a try.

The first tip if you want to give writing a chance to help you deal with issues is: write down your life story. You can put everything you want to say about your life on (digital) paper. No one will read it (unless you want them to), so you can be completely honest. Writing your life story can give you much relief. Focus in particular on your lifestyle, for example: how have dealt with food in your life? With exercise? With personal problems? And how did you feel about that?

When you’ve finished, read your life story. What stands out to you? For example, have you had periods of extreme exercise, followed by inactive periods? Or do you have a history of dieting and binge eating? Can you see what caused that? What thoughts did you have, or do you have, about yourself? And how do you feel now, now that you’ve put it all to paper?

Write morning pages

My second tip when you want to incorporate writing into your life, is: start writing morning pages. Fill three of them every morning. Morning pages are writer and artist Julia Cameron’s way to stimulate creativity. But they also help you come up with solutions to problems (or at least to sow the seeds for them), to look at things differently, or to put things into perspective.

This is how morning pages work:

Every morning you fill three pages in a notebook with anything that comes to mind, without stopping and without improving yourself. It’s important that you actually write with a pen, and not type. Writing connects you much more with your thoughts and feelings.

Do morning pages remind you of a diary? They are indeed similar, although there are a few differences.

The idea is that you do this after you wake up (yes, that makes sense, Fem, otherwise you can’t read), before you look at your mobile or read the newspaper. That prevents you from being influenced by outside information, and your thoughts will still be fresh and truly yours.

By writing early in the morning, you will gain new insights and break through your worries. It also makes you more creative, which is not only great when you have creative work, but also when you have to solve problems.

How do morning pages help me?

I’ve been writing my morning pages every morning for a month now. Already I’ve noticed the difference and I can’t imagine nót writing them. They help me organize my thoughts, express my frustrations and come up with solutions (that I couldn’t think of when just going over my problems in my mind, or when discussing them with my partner or friends).

I also noticed something unexpected: writing morning pages helps me think of fun activities I want to do. For example, I came up with the idea of visiting every library in my province (Drenthe) and reading there for a while. I love libraries and reading, and writing suddenly gave me this idea. Or, for example, visiting exceptionally beautiful bookstores around the world, an idea that also emerged from my morning pages.

But as I said, the pages also help me with difficult things. For example, with work matters, or how I can deal with my jam-packed life of work, kids, sports and hobbies, and what to do with that one negative thing someone said to me three weeks ago that suddenly made me insecure 😉.

Form helpful thoughts by writing

Writing also helps to challenge ingrained, negative ideas about yourself and to arrive at helpful thoughts.

Question 1

Grab a pen and paper, write down a negative thought about yourself that you regularly have, and then ask yourself this first question: does this thought or belief help me move forward?

For example, look at this thought: ‘I’m fat.’ That certainly doesn’t help you any further! And that actually applies to all negative thoughts we have about ourselves that get stuck in our head.

Question 2

The second question you ask yourself is: is this thought, this belief I have about myself, correct?

Suppose you’ve always felt that you’re not sporty or an athlete, and you started thinking: ‘I don’t do sports, that’s just not for me’. You start believing this, so this thought has determined your feelings and behavior for years. Is it really true that you’re not sporty? Exercise can be done in a million ways. Can you walk for 20 minutes? Jog in one place for a minute? Or push yourself up against a wall five times? You can slowly build up exercising. And there you go: you’re an athlete. Or at least sporty. And that thought that you always had, that always limited you and made you feel small and insecure, you can throw it in the trash! And replace it by: ‘I’m an athlete, I exercise however I want to, and that makes me feel good.’

You can do the same with thoughts like: ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I’m too shy.’ Question 1: Does the thought help you? (No.) And question 2: Is it really true? (Also not.)

Question 3

Then you ask yourself question 3: What is an alternative thought that is correct and that will help you move forward?

Now formulate a nice thought about yourself, just like I did above in question 2, about exercise. An alternative, nice thought about this, that does help you further and is correct, is: ‘I am an athlete, I exercise however I want to, and that makes me feel good.’

Writing as a coping strategy

Keep your writing to yourself so you can always feel safe when you put down your thoughts. Think about that for a moment, because we often have that voice in our head that says: “What will they think if I put this down, or that?” Well, nothing, because no one reads your writings. So you can put down what you want bluntly, or write everything in capital letters as if you were shouting, put all your emotions on paper.

Keep writing

It may feel a little awkward at first to write down everything you think. But you’ll get used to this soon enough. And you will start to like it and not want to miss it anymore.

If you notice that it helps you, you will always have something you can do when you feel down or bad (and also when everything is going well). By writing regularly, you’ll also be able to see the positive things in life better.

A gratitude journal can help with this as well. Every evening, write down three things that you’re grateful for. Or, if this is too spiritual for you (it is for me), just write down three things that went well today or that you liked. That will also help you put things into perspective and realize that things are not that bad.

Best wishes,