The Benefits of Writing Down Your Thoughts

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the point of writing down your thoughts? How does expressing your thoughts in writing help you process them more effectively?

If you are struggling with persistent, negative thoughts, it can be helpful to write them down. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in writing can help you put them into a larger perspective and dismantle unhelpful and self-sabotaging thinking patterns.

Here’s how writing down your thoughts can help rewire your mind for more positivity.

Write Down Your Thoughts

Once you’ve made a habit of thinking negative thoughts, your mind becomes so attached to them that it doesn’t want to let go of your negative perspective. To protect this perspective, your mind releases a stream of unfocused defensive thoughts to interrupt any attempts you make to change your feelings. It does this to convince you that you’re right to hold onto your resistant thoughts and the emotional pain that they incur. 

Writing down your thoughts can help focus your mind only on what you’ve written and reduce these mental interruptions. 

She suggests that you think about something in your life that you’re unhappy about. This might be related to something that’s happening in your life now, a memory from the past, or a worry about the future. Then, write short simple sentences to honestly express how you feel about the situation.

Example #1: “My children never help with the chores because they don’t respect me.”

Example #2: “I never have enough money and this makes me feel like a failure.”

Writing Your Thoughts Down Calms Negative Self-Judgment

Research expands on how writing your thoughts down reduces mental interruptions that get in the way of acceptance. According to clinical psychologists, it’s difficult to disentangle yourself from negative thoughts because negativity influences you to think judgmentally about your negative thoughts. This adds an additional layer of distress to your original negative thought and makes you feel powerless to change your thinking. 

For example, if you feel resentful toward your children, you’ll then berate yourself for this feeling and think that you should be more loving. This judgment disempowers you because it makes you feel like you’re flawed in some way, and it increases your emotional distress—creating emotional turbulence that prevents you from considering other ways to think about your situation.

However, as Katie says, writing your thoughts down focuses your mind and prevents you from falling into the trap of self-judgment. This is because the act of expressing yourself through writing helps you vent both conscious and unconscious negative feelings about a situation. Because you’re releasing your negative emotions, you’re less likely to get caught up in them. As a result, you’re more able to objectively explore, clarify, and question the validity of your thoughts and feelings.

The Benefits of Writing Down Your Thoughts

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  • How to investigate resistant thoughts that trigger emotional discomfort
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  • How to accept and feel at peace with yourself and others

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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