It’s never a bad idea to check in with your own mental health. We sometimes find ourselves dealing with struggles that feel permanent and question whether our happy times are only temporary. If you’ve ever caught yourself in this type of thinking, you’re not alone — it’s entirely normal to experience periods of self-doubt and misdirection.
People who use expressive writing to process thoughts and emotions typically have more emotional strength. They’re better able to understand the way they feel and more easily recognize the sources of their emotions.
A great way to conduct a mental health (or sanity) check is to write an open letter to yourself. Open letters are a common blog format in which an individual writes to someone or something, without any real intention of them reading it. You might have seen topics before like, “An Open Letter to the President” or “An Open Letter to my Future Spouse” — the intention is not to write to that person or thing, but rather to write for yourself.
Writing an open letter to yourself is a great way to work through trauma and other tough times, but it’s also an amazing opportunity to recognize good times. Whether you’ve found yourself trudging through a particularly low low or you’re invested in remembering the happiest moments in life, grab a piece of paper and start with “Dear Future (or Past) Self”.
What is Visualization?
The science behind an open letter has to do with visualization. This is the process of picturing the things you want in life in order to make them more tangible, and therefore more achievable. Some psychological studies have shown that visualization can lead to physical change, which is why it’s often applied in cases of anxiety and stress reduction treatment.
Writing To Your Future Self
Future self letters are like seeing the bright light at the end of a tunnel. A person dealing with depressive or uncertain thoughts can benefit from thinking about change in the future. People who feel depressed often have the sense of being “stuck” in a temporary situation. In psychology, this is referred to as a cognitive distortion — something that would feel situational to one person, could feel universal and permanent to another. It could be a break-up or a death, or maybe even just the end of an important life chapter.
Writing to your future self helps remind you that change is possible. Visualize the person you want to be in 1 or 5 years and tell that person about where you are now. Talk about what you want to do differently and what you want to accomplish. Discuss the things that are troubling you and see where the writing process takes you.
Writing To Your Past Self
An open letter doesn’t have to be limited to bad times — experiment with writing to your past self as a way to honor the positive parts of your life. Write to a version of yourself when you were particularly down or unsure about the future. Recognizing change in a positive direction can do wonders for your mental health.
Remember to keep the letters you write during good times. When you notice that you’re stuck in a rut, go back to those letters to remind yourself that the positive change is coming. That’s one of the great things about writing — it’s more than just a fleeting thought. Writing things by hand creates a muscle memory of every word you put on paper. Keeping your letters allows you to reference them during any time of need, and solidifies the concept of positive thinking in your mind.
The moral of the story here is that writing is good for you. Get into a routine where you’re able to check in with yourself and recognize faults and wins. Take out a pen and paper today and write to another version of yourself. What do you want to talk about? Where does your writing take you?
For inspirational writing prompts and content to inspire your journey as a writer, join the writing community at Opyrus.