When something bad happens it doesn’t help much to deny it and try to “look on the bright side” or “just let it go.” Maybe the truth is there isn’t a bright side to this experience and you can’t just will yourself to get over it and be all cheerful. Faking happiness to make others more comfortable won’t do much for you. Finding your own inner resources and reserves of strength, love, meaning and hope, now that can help a lot.

You can do that through writing that helps you recognize and expresses positive emotions. You may find it a bit challenging, but it’s a worthwhile – and fun – effort that doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Ten minutes of writing a day once or more per week may well be enough. I’ve been doing this myself and can report that as research has shown, it really does help increase positive emotion.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Choose an experience that is just slightly negative to try out this strategy.
  2. You’ll write about this experience purposely incorporating positive emotion words. For example, there’s evidence suggesting that writing “not happy” is better for your health than writing “sad.”
  3. When you need to use a negative emotion word, go right ahead. That’s an honest part of the experience and the point is to be honest with yourself in this writing. So don’t say something was happy and joyful when it wasn’t!
  4. For 10 minutes, write continuously about the slightly negative experience.
  5. Describe what happened, what you felt then, what you feel now, and anything else that’s relevant.
  6. Use as many positive emotion words as you can while telling the truth about the experience. 

For an added health bonus, try writing with a purring cat nearby!


How did that go for you? Let me know.

Would you like to learn more? Subscribe to my email list and you’ll be notified about free Writing for Well-Being workshops and webinars coming up this fall.


Source: Pennebaker, J.W. & Evans, J. (2014). Expressive writing: Words that heal. Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Harbor

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