Doing This Helps Teens Feel Happier, Less Anxious, & More Productive

For all of my high school and college counselors out there, this could be an amazing project for your students to learn emotional introspection (remotely.)

Self-Authoring is an online program that allows students to learn writing skills, develop goal setting, and enhance their self-reflection skills by writing prompts regarding their past, present, and future.

Writing allows students to make connectiona between past events and their current emotions, which alleviates stress and allows them to engage more fully. The data consistently show that people who spend time writing about themselves become happier, less anxious, more productive, and engaged.

I wasn’t asked to write about myself until I was in graduate school, and it was revelatory. For the first time in my life, I had to consider how past experiences were impacting my present reality. Through writing, I discovered my flaws, my strengths, and imagined a future for myself. Most students go through stressful events but aren’t ever given the time or space to consider their feelings, but this program does just that.

What kinds of questions do they ask?

There are three sections of the self-authoring program (past, present, future), and each portion takes between 4 to 5 hours to complete. Once completed, the Self-Authoring program combines all of the students writing into a single document, which could potentially serve as their final project.

“If you could choose only one thing that you could do better, what would it be? Think and write for at least two minutes, then move on.”

“What would you like to learn more about, in the next six months? Two years? Five years? Think and write for at least two minutes, then move on.”

I love the idea of asking people to write for a specific period and then “move on” because those definite time boundaries help break down the strain of getting started. My mind almost says, “Oh, I can do that for two minutes.” Somehow, it relieves the pressure of self-reflection into a smaller, more manageable chunk of time.

“What were your ten most important experiences?”

“Were they positive or negative? How did each experience change you or your view of other people?”

“Were they positive or negative? How did each experience change you, or your view of other people?”

Wow! These questions go deep by helping participants consider how one’s perspective of self and others were impacted by those events.

“Are you full of ideas?”

“Are you a sensible person?”

Writing helps people process complicated emotions.

Last year, a little girl who was living with her grandmother because both of her parents abandoned her, told me that her grandma “didn’t like it” when she cried. A few months later, a little boy whose father had died, said to me that his grandpa told him to “suck it up” after his father passed away. Our students need the opportunity to process stressful events, and writing is scientifically proven to help people process complicated emotions.

James Pennebaker, at the University of Texas in Austin, has done numerous research projects in which students were asked to write about ‘the worst thing that had ever happened to them’ and research revealed that students were initially sadder, but were objectively healthier and happier six months later. This program has the potential to help our students process their emotions so that they can function at their optimal capacity.