Through the written word, one can explore one’s own thoughts, feelings, impulses, memories, and goals, writes Shobha Nihalani
Words have power. They have the power to change the way we think, the way we behave and even the way we feel. During a lockdown, we are in a confined space and restricted in many ways. The state of the world adds a sense of despair and fear to the mix. While all this turmoil exists outside ourselves, some of us will face inner turmoil as well. Our self-talk has a great effect on our psyche. As much as we may critique our external world, we also have a habit of being self-critical. Not just that, but when someone says anything negative, it also affects how we feel about ourselves.
These feelings accompanied by our inner self talk can affect us deeply. At this time, it is important to exercise self-care. Focussing on the needs of others is all very noble, but it is absolutely crucial to carry on with inner calm. The words we say to ourselves can affect our mental state in various ways.
According to neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, M.D. and therapist Mark Robert Waldman, words can literally change your brain: ‘a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.’ A single negative word releases dozens of stress-producing hormones. According to the experts, using the right words can transform our reality, which means that the more self-talk that focuses on positive words, the better the outcome of our reality.
It all sounds a bit too simple — change your internal talk and everything around you will improve. But apparently, it’s not all mumbo-jumbo. Scientific studies of brain scans show that if we just change what we say to ourselves, we can bring about a big difference in our lives.
From my perspective, I feel that writing can bring about that kind of transformation, especially when thoughts are loaded with simmering emotions. Many times we are affected by what others say to us, or by a negative rant by our inner critic. By writing down these pent-up feelings, we actually start calming down. For me personally, the legendary figure of Mirabai has often inspired me to face inner and outer negativity with courage, compassion, and my favourite activity — writing.
The purpose of writing or journaling is to reflect on the stream of thoughts and feelings. Simply write whatever comes to mind, don’t worry about grammar or spelling. You are not sharing this with anyone. This method is more about being inwardly attentive, and letting the words flow onto a page. Through the written word, one can explore one’s own thoughts, feelings, impulses, memories, and goals.
Negativity will not necessarily disappear right away. The emotions will linger, but their power to affect our mindset, actions and decisions will reduce over time. Writing sincerely and truthfully is a form of spiritual healing. Very often, writing brings up deep-seated feelings that have been bothering us for a long time. Writing from our most troubled selves, we will be able to see things differently, and sometimes make molehills out of mountains, rather than the other way around!
This form of regular writing is not a complaint book; it is not about wallowing in self-pity or ranting. It is more to express our true feelings that trigger a negative reaction — for example, to notice when we feel bad about feeling bad. It gives us pause to understand our inner self. Don’t write as an obligation, it’s not something to add to a to-do list. Use it as a tool to communicate with your truest inner self, to be perceptive of pent-up emotions and reflect on them.
If writing doesn’t come naturally to you, then start by asking yourself questions. What issue is bothering me? What thoughts are creating these feelings? Why do I keep having these thoughts? Am I being honest with myself? What decision have I taken that has affected me or others? An even simpler approach is to simply write down what emotion you are feeling, keeping a daily mood log.
Writing down our most personal, deepest thoughts and feelings is a courageous act. To enable it to flow, it is important to be non-judgmental of ourselves. You can choose to face your inner critic in the kind, resilient way that Mirabai faced the doubters around her. How the sentence is structured doesn’t matter. Just let the words spill out.
The writer is an author. Her 10th book, The Blue Jade, released recently