About two years ago, after relocating to Melbourne, I was constantly getting sick. Over the span of a year or two, I was plagued with everything from a recurring earache to razor-sharp sore throats to debilitating chest infections. At my worst, I was bedridden for a week with a swollen face and aches all over. My doctor suggested it was a hay-fever attack, but now, looking back, I know exactly what it was: I wasn’t being kind to myself. My internal speak was destroying me, both physically and mentally.
I have always been a highly sensitive and emotional person. My husband tells me I’m my own worst enemy, and he’s right. I put pressure on myself to be perfect, from the way I look at how I perform; I feel like a failure when I get the littlest thing wrong; I get upset with myself when I work too late and can’t squeeze in a workout; I feel everything my son feels even though it’s just part of him growing up. I am always striving to be everything to everyone, and until now, it was destroying me, literally.
Then my sister started practicing kinesiology (exercise science) and introduced me to the concept of freeform, or what some people refer to as journaling. This simple technique has completely changed my life.
In short, freeform is the process of writing down and releasing all the negatives you don’t realize you hold inside. It could be anything: an argument with your partner, an altercation with a friend, the stress of a big deadline at work, or not feeling good about yourself. In the fast pace of modern life, we’re often so busy that we push our feelings aside or keep them to ourselves. It isn’t until we start getting sick that we eventually recognize them. Before it gets to that stage when you’re sitting in the doctor’s office or at home in bed, take the time to slow down and explore how you feel inside.
Sometimes you don’t even know what it is until you start writing it down.
Anytime I start feeling a little off, maybe a sore throat or my ears start aching, I immediately grab a pen and start writing to release it. For instance, I might write, “I release all negativity and pain” or “I let go of all doubt and forgive myself for…” Obviously, I can’t say for sure why, but truly, I don’t get sick anymore. And it’s not just me. In a recent Instagram post, Jonathan Van Ness of Netflix’s hit Queer Eye told fans that journaling had helped him with stress and skin concerns.
“Realizing I’ve been psoriasis flare free for 6 months, one thing I’ve started is gratitude journaling bc of @ruthielindsey and I’m not a doctor but I think it’s helped my stress levels & my skin,” he wrote. He continued, “But if I get a flare again she still works it so either way we cool.” While I still struggle with my internal battles (don’t we all?), freeform gives me a great awareness of these negative thoughts and allows me to rid myself of them before they have a physical effect.
Scroll down to find out how you can benefit from this impactful, simple tool too.
Light a Candle and Call In the Light
Freeform is a very powerful correction, so before you begin, light a candle. The candle is a physical way of attracting “positive light” and allowing it to enter your mind and body. If you don’t have access to a candle, you can also visualize the light as you write. I usually have candles lit around the house anyway, but if I need to freeform at work or anywhere else, I just visualize using the sun or light coming through the window.
Take Notes by Hand, Not on a Device
The purpose of journaling is to release negative internal thoughts or bad energy, but you have to physically aid that release by handwriting it down on a piece of paper. The old-school way with this technique is the only way. The common ballpoint is my pen of choice—the same results cannot be achieved on a keyboard or touchscreen. So put the phone down and reach for a notepad instead. You’ll notice the difference between the physical act of writing these thoughts down over typing them in. I promise.
Don’t Think Too Much; Let It Flow
Begin writing whatever thoughts come into your mind. Begin by focusing on your goal and your feelings about it. I always like to start with “I release,” “I let go of,” or “I forgive myself for.” This just helps to kick things off, and then as you get going, you’ll often find yourself on a tangent and in a completely different direction than where you began.
Usually, there’s something sitting on your shoulders that you had no idea was impacting you until you start writing. This is why freeform works; it accesses your subconscious mind and rids your body of the negatives you didn’t even realize were affecting you.
Write Nonstop for at Least 10 Minutes
This technique involves writing whatever thoughts are present without judgment, in a flowing stream of consciousness. You can even set an alarm if you like so you know you’ve been writing for the required time. Usually, your inner compass will guide you and let you know when it’s time to stop. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation either; there’s no crossing of T’s or dotting of I’s necessary here.
Do Not Re-Read: Destroy It
Once you feel ready to stop, or it’s past the 10-minute mark, then it’s time to rip it up. This is the best part, believe me. Please don’t be tempted to read it back; the point of this exercise is to release all the bad thoughts and to let go of anything that’s annoying you or making you angry so it doesn’t affect you anymore.
Ripping it up and destroying the writing is so cathartic; it is a physical way of saying, “I’m done with that now, I’m getting rid of it, and it’s no longer a part of my life.” Then throw it in the bin.
Repeat This Process If Necessary
Sometimes you can feel the effects straight away. It sounds completely crazy, but I can often feel my sore throat disappearing as I’m writing. If you’ve neglected yourself or you’re feeling really unwell, then you might need to do another freeform a few hours later. One week when I was feeling really rundown, I woke up with one side of my throat burning, so I did a freeform first thing in the morning. As the day went on, I seemed to get worse (a runny nose had started too), so I did another freeform at my desk, followed by one more before I went to sleep that night.
I woke up the next morning feeling great. It really works for me, so try it. There’s no harm in trying.
This post was originally published on July 10, 2015, and has since been updated.