Your Brain on Ink

Neuroplasticity. Now that’s a ten-dollar word. It belongs in everyone’s wallet. Its purchase power underwrites a message of hope and inspiration. As Jane Vella celebrates, “We can create ourselves!”

But how do we create ourselves?  Where is the instruction manual when we want a self-directed course of study? How do we SNAG the brain (stimulate neuronal activation and growth)?

One answer is close at hand. Actually the power is in your hand when you pick up your pen and write in your voice. Journaling and other forms of expressive writing – personal essays, poetry, fiction, song lyrics – are all ideally suited to fire and rewire your circuits. Imagine 5,000 years of expressive language history – papyrus and quills – meeting cutting edge science!

A group of scientists in NYC who research the brain by day are firing and rewiring their circuits by night; they write songs and perform with their band. The Amygdaloids, named after the brain structure that has a primary role in processing memory and emotional reactions, describe their music as “heavy mental.”

Since most of us are not destined for the concert circuit, a notebook and pen can be our first class ticket. As we recount a story through sensory detail, process the nuances of emotion, and explore the dimensions of thought, our neurons are firing, our circuits are wiring and we are witnessing neuroplasticity in action,  guided by our own hand. Focused and engaged attention is key, for the brain takes the shape upon which the mind rests. So, where are you resting your mind?

From Dr. Dan Siegel comes the phrase “Inspire to rewire.” I invite you to use your first journal entry to write about what Siegel’s phrase means to you. I hope that your pen and journal help your mind rest in resilience, love and integration. 


Deborah Ross, LPC has practiced psychotherapy in Northern Virginia for 20 years, focusing on both individual and couples counseling. She studied neuroscience at the Mindsight Institute with Dr. Dan Siegel and applied her findings to a therapeutic writing curriculum, Your Brain on Ink. An avid journaler, she recognizes the healing power of expressive writing and believes that this practice can change the way our brains work so that we experience a deeper sense of well-being and greater resilience. Deborah is certified as an instructor in the Journal to the Self program through the Center for Journal Therapy and offers journaling instruction through workshops and private consultation.