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Writing Improves Your Health (That Easy, Yes!)
There are many past times for people who need to be coping with stress. Some people suggest exercise, meditation, or getting more sleep. Other people suggest aromatherapy, or taking a long vacation. Still, others recommend taking up a new hobby, and research shows that one hobby may be particularly beneficial: Writing.
While many people do not consider themselves good writers, science suggests that just about anyone coping with stress or even serious psychological issues can benefit from giving it a try, and don’t worry— there’s no grades here, and no publishers to win over. It’s just you, your thoughts, and the pen (or keyboard).
What Stress Does to Your Body
Stress can take a significant toll on your body over time. In addition to being emotionally taxing and a killer of productivity and energy, it can result in a weakened immune system reducing your body’s ability to resist an infection. If you’ve ever had a cold during a particularly challenging period at work, you probably have experienced this yourself.
People, who have experienced particularly traumatizing events, like being in a car accident or a combatant in a battlefield, are at a special risk. They can develop a sort of permanent fight-or-flight mode called post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD. It can take years for symptoms of PTSD to go away, even with therapy and medication.
Luckily, for those living with these conditions as well as just stressed out folks, there is hope.
Write Your Stress Away
In a Veteran’s Affair’s-linked study from 2014 in West Haven, CT, in the United States, it was discovered that writing could be quite effective in reducing stress levels in the study participants. The study involved 149 women with PTSD symptoms who were in a residential treatment program for patients with substance abuse problems. The women were instructed to write for 20 minutes for 4 days in a row. The variable was the topic assigned to them. Some of the women had to write about neutral, unemotional topics. The other half wrote in detail about something that was bothering them or some other emotional topic.
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After two weeks, the researchers found that the study participants who wrote about topics with an emotional charge showed more improvements in their PTSD symptoms, as well as lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Some research even shows that writing can speed up physical healing as well. A study at the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that adults who spent 20 minutes a day writing about their lives for 3 days each were actually able to physically recover from wounds faster. Again there were two groups, and the topics were either their daily routines or an upsetting event in their life. Two weeks after they stopped writing, the participants volunteered to receive a small puncture wound on their arms. Interestingly enough, the group that wrote about the emotional topic which upset them healed faster than the group that wrote about mundane daily tasks.
Why Does It Work?
Writing about things can allow you to objectify them and put them out of your head. If you have a lot of troubling disjointed thoughts on your mind, putting them down on paper or typing them out can help give the person a sense of release. It can also help you gain some sense of control, clarity, and detachment from what is bothering you. When you see your problems stated out clearly, you are really looking at them in a different way, and it allows you to let go of the stress and take steps to proactively deal with the root causes.
Writing out things that you are grateful for can also help you reduce stress. If you are more appreciative of what you already have, you’re probably less likely to stress out over the day to day pressures of life.
Give it a try. Spare 20 a minutes a day for at least 3 days in row and spend it on writing out either things that bother you or represent some sort of emotional weight on your mind, and see if it does not make you feel better. Alternatively, try keeping a gratitude journal and write about what you are grateful for. It may just give you a whole new, more positive, and less stressful outlook on life.