3 Ways Freelance Writing About Mental Health Can Improve Your Own Mental Health
Earlier this year, I decided to take the leap into the freelance writing world. My passion for writing has always been a part of me — you can ask my 9-year-old self who religiously turned to her journal every afternoon after school.
But, it’s only recently I decided to blend my two passions (psychology and writing) into a career: freelance mental health writing.
A side-hustle, hobby, passion or whatever you want to call it, I’m sure that as a writer you can relate to what I’m about to say:
Nothing could have prepared me for what embarking on this journey was going to be like.
Anytime you venture into freelancing, it will be a challenge, and some of the tough aspects of writing will, at times, be soul-crushing to your motivation. This is why there is so much importance given towards practicing self-care as a freelancer.
For me, it has been exciting, frustrating, disappointing, humbling and challenging all at once. But one of the aspects I wasn’t anticipating at all was how much it was going to do for my mental health.
I’ve been an advocate for talk therapies and counseling for as long as I can remember, but after being in this world for a few months, I can actually say I’m an advocate of writing as a mental health booster, as well.
1. It can act preventively towards depression and anxiety symptoms.
Mental health professionals have used writing in our practice for a long time, and the connection between psychology and writing has always been there. Journalling, for instance, has proven to be a successful technique for psychotherapy.
It has given patients a lot of independence and autonomy in the therapeutic process while also increasing their self-awareness about their own struggles. Writing and sharing an experience about a diagnosis has helped many to cope with mental health issues.
In my case, writing helped me get through a professional and personal rut I was going through earlier this year. It was an outlet to put myself out there and share my thoughts with an audience.
The feedback and motivation I experienced throughout my first publications were enough to get me off my binge-watching habits (which I’m sure, looking back now, were covering a potential depression episode), and into a more productive and much more improved mental health state.
2. It allows you to connect with other people.
When your writing gets published — whether it’s digital or print — you’re sharing a tiny part of yourself with others. Your content has the potential to resonate with people, and there’s nothing more rewarding than having people connect with what you have to say.
We live in a digital world, where social media is our main form of communication. Some might love it, some might hate it, but we all have to agree it is there.
As writers working in this digitalized era, we need to feel comfortable with social media. It’s the main way all publications are able to connect with people and, as such, it is one of the main ways we are able to connect with our readers. Checking in once in awhile (note: not obsessively gawking over your publication’s social media feed) will allow you to clue in on how people are responding to your writing.
As a mental health writer, my content has a more serious feel to it, aimed at a very specific type of audience. Reading comments on my articles such as, ¨this is so true!¨ or, ¨this is worth sharing,¨ has been one of the best bonuses of embarking on this writing journey.
Praise and recognition have proven to have positive effects on our brain’s reward system, causing the release of ¨good feeling hormones.¨ When working at an office with more people, it’s easier to receive those types of recognition on a regular basis.
As a freelancer, though, when we spend countless hours of our days by ourselves, it’s that much more difficult to elicit these type of positive responses. Which is why positive comments and people’s connections — whether online or in person — are so important and beneficial to our mental health.
Although the feedback is not always positive, it’s important to stay focused on those who are able to connect with your writing and your voice. These are the people who will move your writing from now on. This is your newfound audience.
3. It’s incredibly empowering to see your thoughts on paper(ish).
Freelance writing is not an easy task. It’s a job that requires the same type of discipline (if not more) than any regular desk job. It goes through a process of generating ideas, outlining them, creating drafts, editing, re-arranging, writing and so much more.
When writers are going through creative peaks, we might be able to complete a piece within an hour or two. However, this is far from the rule of thumb. Some days we wake up and it’s difficult to tap into that productivity.
Regardless of all the investment of time and creativity, it’s all worth it when we are able to see tangible evidence of our work. When we are able to see our content out there, (hopefully) published in our favorite publications.
As writers, we have chosen this way of communication because we feel we can make an impact on our readers. Whether it’s about fashion, travel, business or mental health, educating is our drive to share our ideas through this medium.
When we feel empowered, our self-worth and happiness almost immediately have a positive impact, as well.
Writing is such a cathartic and fulfilling experience on its own. When you add to that the opportunity of connecting with others who love what you write and can relate to it, the craft becomes so much more enjoyable.
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