What is Stream of Consciousness and How Can I Use It in Writing?

Posted by Gabby Meyer
Published On May 27, 2021

An essential aspect of talk therapy and other healing methods is a concept called "stream of consciousness." It's a term coined by psychologist William James back in 1890 and refers to the way thoughts flow through the conscious mind. It's vital in therapy because it helps patients understand the full range of their rational and irrational beliefs in a way they might usually have ignored. Today, many therapists conduct treatment through a guided stream of consciousness conversation, where a patient's thoughts lead to deeper and deeper self-reflection. This practice allows psychologists to address root issues and traumas that might not have arisen otherwise. 

So, what does all of this have to do with writing? Stream of consciousness thinking translates incredibly well to paper, and many writers and authors would probably categorize the act of writing as a sort of meditative practice. Some express themselves through creative writing; for others, it's journaling or stream of consciousness writing. Keep reading to learn about how a stream of consciousness writing technique can be used as a mindfulness exercise to improve your overall mental health.  


How it translates to paper

Based on the foundation of stream of consciousness therapy, you can start by writing down all of your thoughts precisely as they arise in your mind. Think of it as transcribing the voice in your head. If you're experiencing specific anxiety or certain stressors, start with that – write about how you're feeling and what you're thinking. As new thoughts enter your conscious mind, follow them and let them guide you through your writing. Therapists commonly suggest that people practice stream of consciousness writing the old-fashioned way: pen to paper. That's because the writers' thoughts arise so quickly, it can be hard to focus, and the writing can begin to feel disorganized. Handwriting your thoughts can help slow your pace, making the practice more meditative than stressful. 


How it can help

Stream of consciousness writing can help you gain a deeper meaning of past traumas and emotional distress. According to a study by Cambridge University Press, it can also help to make you more goal-oriented and focused on important tasks. Writers can even process feelings and emotions faster than non-writers. 

Physical Effects

Surprisingly, daily journaling may also alleviate some physical symptoms, according to the study by Cambridge University Press. The test subjects who journaled three to five times per day reported better physical health within four months.


How to get started

The best thing about stream of consciousness journaling is that it doesn't take much to get started. Start writing about whatever you may be feeling, thinking, or doing, and see where it takes you. Remember that this is a mindfulness practice, and you shouldn't be searching for the "right words" or finding ways to make your writing engaging. Whether it's a short story or a word-for-word translation of your passing thoughts, this mindfulness exercise should feel unprepared and free-flowing. Grab a pen and paper and start writing about whatever might be on your mind.


If you're interested in incorporating more productive mindfulness exercises into your daily routine, stream of consciousness writing is a great way to start! For more writing tips and information about our newest project, sign up for Opyrus. 

Topics: psychological benefits of writing

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