Try these 5 writing exercises to prime yourself for action, empathy and optimism.
Research shows the simple technique of “expressive writing” can make you happier, healthier and more resilient. But that’s not the only way to create a more joyful life story. Here are five writing assignments to try when you want to spark your creativity, reimagine your future and shake up your present.
1 Describe yourself in 24 wordsExperts recommend you start with 24 words, then narrow it down to 12 words, then to six, to three and, finally, to a single word. Writing workshop leader Amber Flame includes this exercise in the classes she leads at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. Inmates might begin with a list that includes words like “cook,” “brown skin,” “curly hair,” “mother,” “guilty” and end up with a single word like “survivor.” “It’s a good beginning exercise for people who are uncomfortable writing,” Amber says. “Anybody can do it. But simple as it is, it’s also profound and helps us zero in on how we define our life.” Amber says she does the exercise herself every few months “as a spiritual check-in” and finds the words she chooses change each time.
2 Imagine your best possible selfPicture a future in which everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded in achieving all your life dreams. Now, suggests psychologist Timothy Wilson, author of Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By, write down what you’ve just envisioned. “Be sure to include how you realized your goals (say, by going back to school for a graduate degree). By focusing your story on the practical steps you took, “you might become more optimistic about your future and cope better with any obstacles you encounter.”