Have you ever found that ‘pouring your heart out’ on paper leaves you feeling somehow refreshed? Or do you like to jot down your daily thoughts in a journal, scribble down a poem now and then, or write about your past experiences in memoir form?
No matter what form … and whether it’s “good” or not … writing really is beneficial for your health, both physically and emotionally. In fact, one study found that writing expressively for just 15-20 minutes three to five times in four months lead to health benefits. According to Arts.Mic:
“By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma. Participants ultimately spent less time in the hospital, enjoyed lower blood pressure and had better liver functionality than their counterparts.”
Other research has shown that writing about distressing events helps people to heal, reduce distress and make sense of the events. The study found that 76 percent of those who wrote about their recent biopsy for 20 minutes three days in a row (prior to the procedure) fully healed 11 days later, compared to just 42 percent of the control group.
There are benefits to writing for specific diseases, too. For instance:
- People with asthma who write have fewer asthma attacks
- AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts
- Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life
As for why writing is so beneficial, University of Texas researcher James Pennebaker explained that expressive writing helps you to evaluate your life and focus on moving forward (rather than obsessing over an event in an unhealthy way). As you work through, and move past, certain events in your life, it lowers your stress levels, boosting your immune function and overall health.
Writers have even been found to sleep better, so if you’re looking for a simple way to boost your health in both the short and long term, get writing. It’s free and anyone can do it. Grab a journal, a notepad or even a piece of scratch paper and begin writing down your thoughts.
Don’t worry about the quality of your writing; it’s the act of writing itself, and expressing your emotions in a concrete way, that’s often cathartic. If you’re more of a computer person, you could even start a blog. In addition to providing the same health benefits as writing on paper, blogging triggers a feel-good dopamine release similar to what occurs when you exercise or listen to music.