If you've got five minutes, you've got a powerful strategy.
Photo credit: Tyler Nix on Unsplash
Tears are words that need to be written. –Paulo Coelho
There are no quick fixes to getting over someone you love, despite the claim many ‘dating and relationship’ gurus will try and peddle online.
Unless you want to fall back into a relationship that wasn’t working, a new relationship, or other addictions to try and numb the pain, you are going to have to do some work.
The good news is that there is a simple way to accelerate your recovery and set yourself up to have a better relationship with yourself and with a new partner down the line when you’ve healed:
Writing in a journal.
Journaling has been proven to improve mental well-being and help you to:
Reduce your anxiety
Break away from obsessive thinking
Improve the way you perceive your situation
Regulate uncomfortable emotions like loneliness, fear and worry
Become more aware of your thoughts so you can change them over time and start to feel happier
What if I don’t like writing? If you haven’t tried journaling in the past, you may be reluctant to give it a go. Here are a few reasons clients have about struggling to start:
I don’t have time to write in a journal
I don’t know what to say
I’m not confident with spelling
My handwriting is terrible
I don’t enjoy writing
If you haven’t enjoyed writing in the past, some of these barriers might arise when you think about starting a journal.
However, you can remind yourself that you are the only one who will read it. As long as you can read your own writing, you’re fine. Spelling doesn’t have to be perfect; handwriting can be messy.
If you have some of the barriers listed above, then try to focus more on how much it is going to help with your mental health and the way you feel each day. That’s a high return on investment.
If you experience resistance every time you sit down to write, make it easy on yourself. Set a timer on your phone for five minutes. Commit to putting pen to paper until the timer goes off.
Even if you only write one or two bullet points about how you feel in the moment, this is the beginning of getting used to the habit of writing down what is in your head. Your next step could be to write a few sentences on why you think you feel this way.
It’s almost like therapy Writing down your thoughts can be a significant way to look after your mental health when you are experiencing depression, anxiety and hopelessness after your relationship ends.
Losing someone will significantly impact your mental and emotional health. When a relationship ends, both parties will experience a form of grieving.
Most advice we read about getting over the loss of a partner tends to focus more on physical well-being or talking to a professional. What doesn’t get mentioned enough is how much writing can help you manage difficult periods in your life.
Journaling is proven to reduce overthinking Painful memories on loop, thoughts that are blown out of proportion, catastrophising, imagining our ex with someone else. This all falls under the umbrella of ‘overthinking’.
The brain is searching for ways to keep us safe. It’s a primal response, similar to if we were out in the wild and we needed to plan for an animal threatening our lives.
When you are overwhelmed by emotional pain and upheaval, your brain thinks it’s keeping you safe by revisiting the threat and searching for a solution.
Writing enables you to detach from your thoughts and see yourself as separate from them. It’s a way of getting them onto paper and out of your head.
Writing keeps you out of denial After a breakup or divorce, denial plays a huge part in our lives. It’s there to protect us at first. Eventually though, we need to enter reality to make some important decisions about safely moving forward into acceptance of the current situation.
Journaling is an excellent way to track your behaviours, and your thoughts and feelings about each behaviour. You can then read over earlier entries as an effective way to judge what you want more of or less of in your life.
My own denial I drank too much after my separation because I was trying to numb the pain and stay firmly in denial. What I noticed with all of my entries after I’d been drinking was that I was a lot sadder and hopeless each time I’d had a few drinks.
When I read over my writing when I hadn’t had alcohol for a while and had regularly exercising, I noticed that my entries sounded more optimistic and lighter. I felt more hope and could imagine a brighter future, free from grief and pain.
I started to make the connection that drinking alcohol was holding my recovery back, and exercise and journalling were making me feel better each day.
When I used that knowledge to make some changes in my lifestyle, I noticed that I consistently started to feel a lot stronger and happier.
We all have different ways of staying in denial when the pain is too great to acknowledge. Perhaps you keep looking at your ex’s social media; you may be over or under-eating, or constantly scrolling on dating apps.
Whatever it is, by writing down all of the ways we are trying to run from our pain, we can get more honest with ourselves and set some goals around cleaning up unhelpful behaviours.
Clear the clutter and get clarity Writing is an excellent way to strengthen the neural pathways in our brains. Our brain literally changes over time when we write. (Andes, Z. 2019).
It clears the mental ‘junk’ out of heads. Anyone who feels mentally cluttered will recognize that sinking feeling. Almost like your thoughts are so jumbled you don’t even know where to start with getting on top of your emotional turmoil.
Writing helps us to become better problem solvers. When we get caught up in feeling we aren’t able to make things better, journaling gives us an opportunity to create options that can help us feel better.
Track your progress One of the hardest parts of recovery from the end of a relationship is feeling as though you are starting to make headway, only to get plunged back into despair and sadness out of the blue on a rough day.
By reading over your journal, you get a more realistic picture of your progress. When you’re down, it can feel as though you were never up. Your journal is a tangible record of your progress, which is an excellent motivator to keep going on the days when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere and hopelessness kicks in.
After around thirty days you should notice some patterns and begin to feel how journaling is helping to clear your head.
Takeaway Through the practice of daily journaling, we are given the opportunity to break free from depression, anxiety, fear and worry. A consistent journaling habit can clear your mental clutter and help identify ways to recover faster.
It helps us make sense of what has happened and improve our perspective. This, in turn, helps our mental health and well-being as we go through the healing process.
Five minutes a day is a small investment of time when you consider how big the reward will be if you consistently make the effort to take an active role in your recovery.
If you know anyone who could benefit from reading this article, please consider sharing it with them ❤️