The connection between health and writing is not an entirely new concept. With a vast amount of research on the subject, and even a Center for Journal Therapy dedicated to the cause, it is safe to say that the connection is firmly established. However, up until recently, the connection between expressive writing was mostly attributed to mental or emotional health, but new research is proving that expressive writing has an impact on physical health as well.
Therapeutic Writing Options
Since writing is more than just a hobby or mental exercise, perhaps it’s time to implement it into your routine to encourage an overall healthy lifestyle. It can be as simple as writing in a notebook or journal three times a week for about 20 minutes each. Often the act of physically writing something down can be in itself quite therapeutic. It keeps you engaged and the act of physically writing sends messages to the brain to assign memory to the physical activity; this in turn can help you to better remember. There is also the therapeutic aspect of getting the thoughts out of your head and physically down on the page; there can be a releasing effect to this.
However, for those who don’t want to carry a physical notebook with them, it can be just as therapeutic to express your thoughts in a Word document on your computer, or even creating and maintaining a blog. Unlike with a private journal, using a WordPress blog to write and then using a package to get it online allows you to write therapeutically, while also having access to a public readership which can lend some social support and often encouraging feedback.
As was noted in this BBC article, “blogging about health problems has been shown to improve feelings of social support, especially when that support is lacking from family and friends.” Of course, you need to keep in mind that this is a public medium through which you are expressing personal thoughts, and the occasional unfavorable comment may arise; however, there is usually more of a sense of comradery and understanding that emerges, which can make this a very positive and constructive method to use.
Writing is already often a prescribed part of the treatment plan for those suffering from depression or coping with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Those battling depression and anxiety often experience a tendency to ruminate – going over thoughts repeatedly in one’s mind. But when you begin writing things down, you can actually express these thoughts and get them out of your head, and once they are down on paper, you can bring some kind of structure and meaning to them.
Once meaning is attributed to a negative experience, it then makes it easier to get over these negative recurring thoughts. Writing them down also helps you to work through these stressors – becoming a sort of daily cathartic release – and helps you to come to terms with them, reducing their impact on your health, not to mention that practicing habits of positive and constructive thought will in turn help a person begin to think more positively in general.
Aside from emotional and mental health benefits, such as improved well-being, better mood, and lower stress levels and depressive symptoms,expressive writing has also been linked to some more physical benefits like a lower blood pressure, improved functioning of lungs and liver, and less time spent in the hospital. A study conducted by researchers in New Zealand assessed two groups of patients (those who wrote expressively and those who did not) and even discovered that those who engaged in creative, expressive writing were able to heal faster from injuries.
The logic behind this is that those who wrote expressively experienced better sleep (which in turn helps to improve healing time) and also showed lowered cortisol levels – a stress hormone that impedes immune system function.