Excerpt from the book “Stress to Joy”- Chapter 3:
…You have calmed down your mind and body with mindfulness, meditation, and other relaxation exercises. Now what? Your problems have not completely resolved. First of all, the problems that were caused by a tense body and overwhelmed mind are starting to decrease, yet we still need to take further steps to resolve the problem. Our clear mind can now help us focus on possible solutions instead of feeling overwhelmed by the problems. Before calming down, the mind was so overwhelmed with emotions that it was hard to think logically. As a result, as the mind settles, one can reflect on their situation. In this chapter, let’s review some tools and techniques to help you do that.
As Sam calmed her frustration by practicing mindful driving, her mind was cleared. Finally, she started to reflect on her situation and brainstorming her options with friends and family.
As Rene calmed down, she began reflecting all of the stuff she had to do so that she could reflect on her priorities.
As Natasha calmed her mind and body, she reflected on what was working for her that she wanted to continue and what was not working for her that she wanted to change. Furthermore, as it started to calm their minds and bodies, these women were able to reflect on their situations. The third step in this transformative journey from stress to joy is to Reflect—represented by R in the acronym ACR
When Natasha was facing difficulties reflecting and I suggested writing, she had several reservations, like, “I am afraid someone will read it,” or “I don’t write well.” “Last time I tried to write, I felt more negative, since it brought out so many negative thoughts.”
If you are afraid someone will read it, there’s a simple solution. Tear the paper up after writing.
If you are not writing to show anyone, does it matter if you write well? All that matters is that you offload your mind and clear your mental space of mental garbage.
That happens to people since they may have kept the negative thoughts suppressed for too long.
Some people initially feel bad, but then feel better after letting out the negative thoughts in the form of writing. So, if you are able to bring the negative thoughts out of your mind and let them go, you can clear your mental space. Wouldn’t it be better if it were released instead of staying inside of you? When it stays inside, it gets lodged in your body and causes problems.
Finally, you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel bad.
If bringing those negative thoughts to your consciousness adversely affects you, it may not be the right tool for you, it may not be the right time for you, or you may need additional help working with a therapist before you can use this tool. Write only if you feel it is right.
Natasha felt it was right for her, so she scheduled a daily 15-minute time slot in her planner. She made a routine of starting a timer and putting her pen on a notepad. She wrote whatever came to her mind. As soon as the time was over, she put the pen down, tore the pages of the notepad into small pieces, and threw them into her wastebasket. It felt good to get rid of that garbage.
This technique is called “Therapeutic Writing.”
Therapeutic writing helps many chronic pain patients get rid of their pain. How is that possible? When I first heard about it from a spine surgeon in Seattle named Dr. Hanscom, I was intrigued. I scheduled a meeting with him to learn more. He graciously gave me his time and shared how he uses this technique in a rehab program before his patients get spine surgery. He said that this technique even helped him when he suffered from chronic pain for more than 13 years. When he got better, he developed a program and wrote a book called Back in Control.
You can learn more about this program and get a lot of helpful tools from his website: https://backincontrol.com
Dr. Hanscom told me that about 75% of the people who come to him with the intention of having surgery for their back pain end up not needing the surgery when they participate in this program, where therapeutic writing is one of the major techniques. When I talked to him in 2016, he said that more than 800 people were able to get rid of their chronic back pain without surgery using this program. Amazing!
Why do you think this technique helps so many people with chronic pain?
I think that many people carry a lot of anger and hurt in their bodies. Writing the thoughts down is like clearing the mind’s space from rotting garbage. Putting the thoughts on paper tells the mind that those thoughts are just thoughts, not you. They are separate from you. Most of all, the act of tearing and ritualistically throwing away the paper tells the mind that you can get rid of those negative thoughts.
The bonus is that by throwing the paper away, we don’t have to worry about someone reading it!…..
Dedicated to your health and happiness,
PS: If you would like to read the rest of the chapters from the book, you can get it from stresstojoy.com
#1 Best Selling Author, Speaker, and Psychiatrist
The Stress to Joy® program is available in
I share many tools and techniques that I have found to be helpful. They are not intended to replace treatments. Please seek treatment from licensed medical or health professionals as needed. I change all names for privacy.