Sometimes, when things are changing, we tell ourselves that it is too overwhelming and we won’t be able to cope.
That’s not very helpful self-talk, as anyone familiar with internal dialogue will tell you.
It is difficult, though, to catch those thoughts before they happen. We are creatures of habit. Our minds tend to repeat the same messages again and again.
Is there a way to change our thoughts after they happen? A growing body of research says we can write our way to a new way of thinking. In The Muppet Movie, Kermit the frog leads his friends, singing “life’s like a movie; write your own ending; keep believing; keep pretending…” One of my favorite movie moments took on greater meaning as I read Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times blog post, Writing Your Way to Happiness.
In one of the studies mentioned, students who are struggling to adjust to college were asked to write an essay or create a video to be seen by future students. Students who took part received better grades in the following months than did those in a control group.
In another study, married couples in conflict were encouraged to write about it through the eyes of a neutral observer. Those who wrote showed an improvement in their marital happiness.
In Rising Strong, author and psychologist Brené Brown suggests that we grapple with our stories in writing:
“Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”
If you, like me, keep a journal, this provides validation and gives us assignments. We can use our journals to vent, rave, wail and gnash our teeth. We can discover stories we are telling ourselves and ferret out the unhelpful beliefs that may lurk under them. Then we can write new endings and live into them.