Creative writing is good for your mental health
By Michelle Collins
Youthcast Media Group®
Tyron Barnes' path into creative writing inspired him to write several books and reflect on who he is as a person. In the process, he says, it also improved his mental health.
"Creative writing held me accountable for understanding who I truly was and who I wanted to be," said Barnes, who has been AHS Band Director since 2021. "It led me to the frontier of my soul." He sees creative writing as a private space where he could express himself without worrying about being judged or having to suppress his feelings.
“It definitely helped me, just dealing with the issues that I had many years ago,” Barnes said. “It helps me with many things like my mental health, physical well-being and also anxiety management.”
There are literally hundreds of studies supporting what Barnes has observed– that writing down your thoughts can actually make you feel better: in one study during the pandemic, people who wrote about a past trauma reported increased resilience, fewer symptoms of depression and less stress.
People's mental health was declining in 2020 when the coronavirus struck and the majority of people were forced to stay at home for extended periods of time. Mental health issues have taken center stage since the beginning of the pandemic, which worsened mental illnesses for many people and brought on new symptoms for others. In the first year of the pandemic, the global prevalence of depression and anxiety increased by 25%, according to the World Health Organization.
Creative writing can allow people to temporarily escape from reality, students and teachers at AHS said.
Junior Cesar Vasquez said that creative writing allowed him to create a new world to escape into.
"Writing links you to constructing a narrative whose only limitation is imagination," he said.
In his stories he was able to write about his feelings of isolation and the fact that he felt he didn’t have many friends. Sharing these stories with his family made him feel happier and allowed them to better understand his emotions and experience.
When writing things down, you let go of all those unpleasant feelings and might even save yourself from doing something you'll later regret, said Barnes.
"Even if you write negative things but don't act negatively, it's still a good," he said. “What we have inside has to come out in a healthy way, the healthiest way is by writing what we feel, and it's private.”
Creative writing may also help change your perspective, according to Brian Aldenderfer, AHS’s creative writing instructor.
“Writing things down can help you put things into perspective that people see things differently,” Aldenderfer said.
Aldenderfer’s student, Senior Johanna Springston, said that she’s definitely benefited from the class. "I believe that writing benefits my mental health,” she said. “I have the freedom to sit down, reflect for a while, and then write passionately about what's upsetting me without fear of criticism."
If you haven’t tried creative writing, teachers and students offered this advice.
“Write your heart out about what’s bothering you, without judgment,” said AHS senior Bemnet Argaw. “You aren’t graded on how good your writing abilities are.”
Barnes echoed that advice, and added that you’ll likely reap a lot of rewards. "Writing allows you to be more vulnerable with yourself than with other people, which is good because becoming open and vulnerable encourages self-honesty, helping you see things clearly and how they actually are.”
Michelle Collins is a rising junior at Annandale High School in Virginia.