Happiness Exercise: Writing This Emotional Life - PBS

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    Senia Maymin, MAPP

Senia Maymin, MAPP's Bio

Senia Maymin researches change and runs a Web site of daily research tips for happiness and success.

Happiness Exercise: Writing


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The Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston was full of intriguing items, from a blue metal sculpture symbolizing bird flight to the bridge build with no nails to images of Leonardo’s many journals.   When I was a teenager, my family went to this exhibit.  My dad asked us afterwards, “What do you think made Leonardo da Vinci so great?”  My brothers and I guessed, “He created things….  He worked in many fields…  He brought thoughts of art to science and vice versa.”

My dad said, “There was one thing bigger than all those.  He wrote everything down.”

He did.  He wrote everything down.  He must have written for hours each day sometimes.


Writing helps do many things:

  1. Organizes thoughts.  How often have you stepped away from a period of writing down thoughts to see that your ideas are clearer and more crisp?  Even the formatting of writing can clarify ideals.  If bullet points have sub-bullet points, then ideas start to take shape in an organized framework.
  2. Improves productivity.  As a coach, I used to often work with clients on diving their planning time and their doing time.  Writing is an effective way to create planning time – to plan out what we need to do.
  3. Dispels/increases the emotional intensity of certain situations.  Researchers have found that writing can dispel the intensity of negative emotions and can increase the intensity of drive, motivation, and contentment (positive emotions about a good event).
  4. Helps in moving towards your desired future.  Writing exercises such as the Best Possible Self exercise developed by psychologist Laura King can help you visualize your desired moving-toward state, whether its in sports, love, or career.  And visualizing something concretely enough can get us motivated to move towards it.


 
The reason I write is to make my thoughts concrete.  That’s why I started blogging years ago, that’s why I post on twitter sometimes, and that’s why I write down research ideas.  If I have an idea, I know it can be gone in an instant.  Writing it down and filing it in the right place makes me feel so productive.

And it’s a wonderful surprise when I move back to a research project I hadn’t worked on it a while, and see my latest notes there written out, as crisp directions for what next steps to take.  I’d love to hear from you where you find that writing helps you move forward in life.


Senia Maymin’s blog posts highlight exercises and research from the field of positive psychology to increase happiness, resilience, and productivity.  Senia can be reached at www.twitter.com/senia.