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To Those Who Love to Write

Article by Rachel Grate | Mic

No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

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 [who did not write, journal, or blog].

It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.

Even those who suffer from specific diseases can improve their health through writing. Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

So what is it about writing that makes it so great for you?

James W. Pennebaker has been conducting research on writing to heal for years at the University of Texas at Austin. “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker writes. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.”

Why? Pennebaker believes this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up.

You don’t have to be a serious novelist or constantly reflecting on your life’s most traumatic moments to get these great benefits. Even blogging or journaling is enough to see results. One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.

From long-term health improvements to short-term benefits like sleeping better, it’s official: Writers are doing something right.

Credits

2014-09118 WriterClick here to read a Beyond Injury post.

Thanks to Wendy for sharing the article with me; Rachel Grate for writing the article; Mic for committing its resources to publishing the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly made it possible for me to share the picture or text in this post.

Scott
Even after brain surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments to eradicate his brain cancer, Scott continued to work; continued to study; and earned professional certifications from the Project Management Institute, American Society of Quality, and Stanford University School of Professional Development. How were all of these achievements possible at a time when Scott was struggling with the hurdles of brain injury? The answers are in this blog.

5 Responses to “To Those Who Love to Write”

  • Peggy says:

    Thanks for the post. Writing does indeed help after my TIA. It helps clarify my thinking and organize my mind. It improves my verbal communication as well.
    Even fi it is just stream of consiousness topics from my seemingly random mind, it seems theraputic.

    • Scott says:

      Peggy, I use music as a memory exercise. I try to remember the artist, words, and year of release. If I am not familiar with the music, I ask about it. Hopefully, I remember when I hear the music again. It does not always work, but that does not change my mind about the value of listening to music. ~ Scott

  • Esther says:

    I am glad to hear the benefits are not contingent upon quality, such as the sequencing of letters in my prose. Although I’m as slow as molasses, I still enjoy it doing it and have seen improvement over time.

    • Scott says:

      Esther, no matter what we are trying to do, some action is significantly better than no action. Little steps are often much more beneficial that large steps. The little steps allow us to be more flexible. ~ Scott

  • Geo Gosling says:

    I sustained a TBI in 1995. I was very depressed and was seeing a psychologist; more than one actually. They didn’t do a damn thing. In fact, one of my psychologists lied to me and, as a result, I ended in the mental ward of the local hospital for three days and two nights. That was more traumatic than my TBI and I call it my “trump trauma.”

    What did help my depression was the two books that I wrote regarding my whole “TBI experience.” I was not a writer before and in fact, did not like to write.

    Her are my books:

    I suffered a severe TBI in a bicycle (me) vs pick-up truck collision. I have since written two books on the whole…ordeal. There are links below that will provide ordering information and more.

    The first book: “TBI Hell – A Traumatic Brain Injury Really Sucks”

    Description:

    I tell about all of the trials and tribulations of being a 25-year-old male stuck in a hospital for 3 ½ months with an injured brain. I talk about doing all kinds of therapy and being with other patients. Then having to move back home with my parents because I couldn’t take care of myself.

    I talk about all the trials and tribulations of having to live at home and having to re-learn everything, from getting dressed to driving a car. This is not the typical “rah-rah, work hard, do your best and everything will work-out fine” type of book. It is brutally honest.

    The second book: “TBI Purgatory – Comes After Being In TBI Hell”

    Description:

    This is the follow-up or continuation of “TBI Hell.” It is about life 14-15 years after a TBI has been suffered. To my knowledge, there are no books written by a TBI sufferer about life that long after the TBI was suffered.

    It is much more positive and less angry than “TBI Hell” and if you are anything like me, you have plenty of anger already. I’ve been told it’s actually kind of funny in spots but…that’s totally subjective.

    Geo Gosling
    goose3@wildblue.net

    P.S. Neither book contains much, if any medical terminology or psychological mumbo-jumbo. They don’t offer much, if any advice on how to deal with living with an injured brain. They are just me “calling it like I see it.”


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**** About The Author ****

During the past 13 years, I have been diagnosed with cancer, brain injury, balance issues, stroke, ataxia, visual impairment, and auditory challenges. I have overcome significant adversity! I can explain how to overcome your challenges. I am a very active Toastmaster and a motivational speaker.