“What's that?” you might be asking. “Writing therapy?!”
Why yes, dear reader. Used in certain ways, writing can help you process difficult emotions and even heal from trauma. But reflective writing can also help you grow your self-awareness, and that has the potential to support your mental health. How? Well, by being more aware of where you’re at, and what you need, you can take actions that help you to support yourself. Writing also helps you learn more from your own experiences, which can help you improve the ways you interact with the world.
If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit like magic, perhaps it does. But it also sounds a lot like logic! Think about it: the whole concept of the padlocked diary is to allow the writer to express their deepest, most heartfelt feelings without fear of scrutiny from anyone else. Getting those feelings down on paper at once frees us from them and captures them forever, so we can hopefully get them into some kind of perspective and make better sense of them.
In a way, FutureMe is a bit like that padlocked diary, but with a side serving of time-travel. Even if you make your letter public, no one knows who the writer is. But the best part is that you gain the benefits of self-reflection from writing the letter and from reading it at a future date!
Year in review
As the year draws to a close, you might benefit from taking some time to look back over what you’ve achieved, enjoyed and struggled with over the last 12 months. The action of writing a letter reviewing the year could help you process events that happened so quickly, you barely had time to acknowledge them in the moment.
It could also help remind you of the things that mattered most — those that brought you the greatest joy. And knowing what floats your boat might help you make some decisions about the year to come, don't you think?
To really do this well, have your calendar open as you write your letter, so you can work back through the months and be sure you haven't missed any event that meant something to you. You might be surprised to find that an important moment three months ago feels like it happened in a whole different lifetime! You’ll really start to get a sense of how much has changed, and perhaps how far you’ve come, in the intervening months.
Not just for fun
There’s another way that writing a letter to your future self could be helpful right now, and that’s in reflecting on family stuff.
The festive season is renowned for bringing up capital-F Feelings about family and loved ones — perhaps because we’re expected to spend a lot of time with them at this time of year, and yet we may not actually end up doing that — or particularly enjoy doing it.
Reflecting on festive-season feelings in a letter to future-you might give you space to explore any bottled-up emotions and express them fully. It could even give you the self-awareness to plan how to handle difficult situations you might face over the coming weeks, so that you can maintain your equilibrium and enjoy this period as much as possible, in spite of those challenges.
When it arrives...
While it might seem like the mindfulness and mental health benefits of all this are in the writing, be well and truly assured that they also come from receiving your letter down the track.
Imagine future-you gets these reflections in a year’s time. Firstly, you’ll probably be moved by how you felt, and how deeply you felt it. That will be heart-warming in itself. But you’ll also be looking back on the day you wrote that letter from a very different perspective, and that will add to your ability to learn from what you wrote. It’s like a double-whammy of self-awareness: you get one boost from the writing, and another, perhaps even more powerful one from reading it down the track.
By coming back to that reflection in a year’s time, you’ll get a fresh perspective on yourself and how you saw your situation, but also how you’ve changed since then. Connecting those dots might also help build your self-awareness in new and healthy ways. Not bad for a little time spent reflecting at futureme.org!