The written word has always been a powerful tool - but now science is proving that the act of writing can actually improve your mental health. Even better, you don’t have to be a professional; it’s the kind of writing anyone can do.

The concept of "expressive writing," or writing about one's self, is gaining attention, as more and more studies show the benefits of exploring individual issues by writing about them.

It’s no surprise that jotting down thoughts on a particular area that’s troubling you - school, work, relationship or health - can clear your mind, leading to a decrease in stress and increased ability to focus. In one recent Harvard Business School study, new employees given 15 minutes of writing/reflection time at the end of a workday were shown to perform more than 20% better than their coworkers who didn’t.

But that’s only the beginning.

Participating in a session of expressive writing for just three consecutive days (about something emotional, not superficial) has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression.

The truth is, writing can improve your health.

Other long-term benefits of expressive writing may include:

  • Improved mood
  • Improved memory
  • Feeling of greater psychological well-being
  • Greater ability to reach out for support/talk about difficult experiences
  • Fewer avoidance and post-traumatic intrusion symptoms
  • Fewer visits to the doctor related to stress

No experience required.

To get the most out of your expressive writing experience, try to ignore your high school English teacher's voice in your head and just get everything down on paper. A few tips for a successful expressive writing session:

  • Set aside a consistent time to write that’s convenient to your schedule, so you’ll stick to it. (An example is writing for 15 or 30 minutes each session, which could be daily - or even weekly - for a month.)
  • Focus on one particular experience or situation, so you won’t feel "stuck" when writing.
  • Don't edit yourself. Including whatever comes to mind is key.
  • Forget about grammar or punctuation. You’re not being graded!
  • Let it go. Write about your true thoughts and feelings. No one else needs to see it.

You can rewrite your story, literally.

There’s even more good news. Reflecting on - and even editing - what you’ve written oftentimes can lead to a new perspective about a stressful situation. That means the first step toward lasting change is within your hands, as soon as you pick up a pen (or your laptop). It could be one of the easiest, and most cost-effective ways, to find more happiness in your life.