Why does writing improve your health?
The benefits of writing cut across physical, social, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Learn more about how writing can lead to significant improvements in your life.
People have used writing to explore and express their emotions for thousands of years, but only relatively recently has research provided scientific evidence that when people transform their feelings and thoughts into language, their physical and mental health improves.
Expressive Writing (or journalling) is simply writing about our experiences, feelings and thoughts. Expressive writing helps us to step back and examine our lives, identify the issues and events that have shaped and impacted on us, and understand what we are doing and why.
Sharing this writing with a therapist can lead to an additional level of objectivity, insight and understanding, leading to greater emotional well-being.
In 1986 Dr. James W. Pennebaker conducted the first clinical experiment on Expressive Writing. Pennebaker found that when people wrote about their most difficult experiences they experienced improvements in their physical health. From his study, Pennebaker concluded that keeping secrets tends to be linked to health problems and that disclosing painful and emotional feelings often resulted in feelings of relief. His groundbreaking findings inspired a generation of researchers in the field, with further studies demonstrating that a whole range of benefits can be attained through the process of Expressive Writing.
Why is Expressive Writing so good for you?
Writing forces people to stop and re-evaluate their lives. It also requires them to identify and label their emotions and structure their thoughts in a particular way. This in turn can lead them to reach a different understanding about their situation: they talk more; they connect with others differently; they are better able to take advantage of social support; and they are better able to resolve issues and make positive changes for the future. Expressive writing leads to improvements our social lives, physical wellbeing and mental health.
One area where Expressive Writing can bring about positive change is in people's social lives. After people write about troubling events, they devote less 'thinking time' to processing them further. This allows them to be better listeners and better friends. Their memories often improve. The act of writing may also encourage people to talk more openly with others about the secrets they have been keeping, therefore helping to create more honest and confidential relationships. One study explored relationships amongst college students and found that couples who wrote about their relationships were more likely to still be together several months later.
Recent research suggests that Expressive Writing promotes sleep, reduces recovery times for some illnesses and enhances immune function. Studies have shown that it can produce significant benefits for individuals with a variety of medical problems, including fewer stress-related visits to the doctor and reduced blood pressure.
Mental Health (Emotional and Psychological Health)
Mental health describes a person's overall emotional and psychological well-being. Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year (UK Mental Health Foundation). The process of writing can help people to make sense of their lives and to explore and understand their feelings and emotions. Writing helps us to accept the reality of the past, whilst setting goals for adjusting our future life path in positive ways. The very act of moving a pen across paper or fingers on a keyboard can also be meditative and calming.
It is important to note that although we are not suggesting that writing should replace other treatments for mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression, it may be a useful addition to other approaches.
A key advantage of writing is that you can do it in your own time and at your own pace. If you are not feeling up to leaving the house or interacting with other people, writing can be an ideal way to help yourself begin to feel better. This in turn will lead to you being able to obtain further help and support.
How can Write As Rain help you?
As described above, Expressive Writing can benefit you in a number of ways.
In addition to this, corresponding directly with a therapist will ensure that you avoid some of the shortcomings of writing on your own, such as writing about a trauma too soon after it occurs or becoming 'stuck' on a particular topic.
We can support you to make the most out of your writing by guiding you through specific and proven writing techniques.