Writing for Wellness
"Writing about stressful situations is one of the easiest ways for people to take control of their problems and release the negative effects of stress from their bodies and their lives." James Pennebaker, Ph.D.
WRITING IS A HEALING TOOL
More than 30 years of research have demonstrated that writing is an effective way to release stress and improve health and wellbeing. Through writing, you can activate your body’s innate healing potential and be an active participant in your own wellness and healing process. For those who have experienced trauma, illness, or other life stressors, you know the negative effect these can have on your body, your mind, and your spirit, not to mention your relationships, job, and priorities. Writing is a tool that can help us move through suffering by first exploring it. Indeed, Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, asserted that “suffering ceases to be suffering … at the moment it finds a meaning.” Writing is a healing modality that helps us let go of painful emotions and memories. It is also a wonderful way to search for meaning and explore new identities and pathways to wholeness.
EMPIRICAL BENEFITS OF WRITING
Many empirical studies have examined the effect of writing on health, revealing a host of benefits for the writer:
- Better physical health
- Fewer doctor visits
- Improved sleep
- Less pain
- Positive mood
- Stronger immune system
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Lower stress hormone levels
- Physical and mental relaxation
- And much more!
Additionally, research has also found that those who wrote about emotional topics experienced better grades, found jobs more quickly, and were absent from work less often compared to those who wrote about superficial topics, or just about the facts of the crisis. In each of the studies, those who wrote about superficial topics, without addressing their feelings, did not experience health benefits. This makes sense because when we suppress our emotions we intensify the experience of pain, setting ourselves up for illness and a difficult recovery. For many, the lasting improvement in their well-being far outweighs any temporary distress from writing about painful topics.
In addition to writing, we will be reading and discussing some select pieces of literature, such as poems and short stories. Reading these pieces will enrich your understanding of your own illness or trauma and provide new perspectives for your recovery process. In fact, these types of exercises have been called Narrative Medicine. Reading other’s writing is also a wonderful catalyst for your own writing.
When everything in your life feels out of control, including your own body, writing can help. It is one thing you still have control over. It is something you can do anytime, anywhere. It is a safe and private outlet.