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Writing for wellbeing

Creative writing is a simple and rewarding way to develop self-expression and make space for reflection. Here's how to get started.

Writing for wellbeing, also known as expressive writing or creative writing for therapeutic purposes is a simple and rewarding way to develop self-expression and make space for reflection. It has been shown to help us gain insight and perspective on our lives and can help us find ways ahead in difficult times. No prior writing skill or experience is necessary and there is no requirement that you should write in a specific language, style or form. This is not writing for publication but rather making space to write for yourself, focusing on process and content rather than spelling or grammar, and there is no expectation that you share it with anyone, unless you would like to.  All you really require is something to write with, something to write on and a little time. 

Putting thoughts on paper can make it easier to reflect on them and can lead us to rediscover forgotten memories and skills, and find new perspectives on our situation.


For some people reflective writing can become a regular or even daily exercise through keeping a diary or journal, but even one-off exercises can help us to reconnect with ourselves and begin to find ways to connect with others.

Here are some simple ways to start.

What you need to get started:


  • A comfortable place to sit and write undisturbed

  • A timer (one on a phone or a kitchen timer is fine)

  • A glass of water, a cup of tea or a snack

  • A scented candle (optional) 

The Letter 

  • Set a timer for five minutes. 

  • Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

  • Spend that five minutes describing what loneliness means to you. 

  • Read through.

  • Next, take ten or fifteen minutes to write a brief letter to someone experiencing loneliness. What do you think they need to hear? What would you like them to know? What words of encouragement or advice could you offer them? 


Creature Comforts 

  • Get comfortable and if you would like to, close your eyes. 

  • Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

  • What comes to mind when you think of the word comfort? 

  • Take some time to think about this idea and when you are ready open your eyes and capture what you can on paper for ten minutes. What is comfort to you? What makes you feel good? If you haven’t got them already, are there ways of implementing these comforts in your life? 


  • Take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

  • Make a list of five things you are grateful for, it can be anything from your warm socks, or a cup of tea, to a special person or place.

  • Review your list and pick one to write about for five minutes. If you would like to pick another and do the same. 


Keeping a journal

Keeping a journal can be a good way to make space to reflect daily or to explore exercises like those above. There are many wellbeing writing prompts available online.


Although there are a lot of beautiful journals and notebooks out there it can be hard to get started if it feels too special, so it can be easier to begin with something cheaper that you can happily make mistakes in. Remember this is just for you so anything goes: colours, pictures, quotes, poems, song lyrics, anything can be a starting point for writing. If you are not sure where to begin try the exercise below. 


Free writing exercise 

  1. Take a moment to settle. 

  2. Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. 

  3. Free write for five minutes, trying not to let the pen leave the paper. Forget spelling or grammar, just follow wherever your thoughts go. Remember this is for no one’s eyes but your own and you choose what happens to it. 

  4. If nothing comes to mind you can start where you are. How does it feel to sit and write, to be here and now?

  5. When the time is up take a moment to read through what you have written, you might also want to try reading it aloud. 


At this point you could also underline anything that interests or surprises you. If you do find something you would like to explore further you could write it at the top of the next page to use as the starting point for your next piece of writing. 


Reaching out 

Sharing writing with others, online or in groups can be a powerful way to begin to make connections. There are writing for wellbeing and therapeutic writing workshops running around the country both in person and online, many of which focus on specific themes like loss, redundancy or becoming a parent. In these groups there is no obligation to share what you write and the experience can be enhanced by the support of being with others. You may also like to speak with the facilitator beforehand about how much or how little you would like to take part. 


It is also possible to undertake one-on-one work with a trained professional where sessions can be tailored to your own specific needs. There are facilitators and groups around the country, information on which can be found through your local library, local groups and charities and in some areas through your GP surgery. 

This information was written by supporter of Marmalade Trust, Rebecca Shamash. Rebecca is a Psychotherapist and Therapeutic Writing Facilitator from Bristol, with a passion for promoting the benefits of writing for wellbeing. For more from Rebecca Shamash, visit

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