science, writing

Writing = therapy (or 5 reasons why writing is good for you)


Writing = therapy (or 5 reasons why writing is good for you)

I have always enjoyed writing—whether it’s stories, poems, scripts, silly notes to myself or pages and pages of unnecessary commentary on my favourite television shows. There is something about putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) that soothes me. One of my goals is to journal more, but in an increasingly digital world, I can never find the time. Writing online in the form of digital diaries and blogs are a great way to keep up with journaling, but I much prefer looking at clean lined paper and messing it up with my chicken scrawl.

Many people write every day for various reasons, a shopping list, texting, email, social media, and the list goes on. How much thought do we really put into texting our BFF ‘LOL’ sixteen times a day? Not much. Most of this writing doesn’t benefit us emotionally or make us any smarter. However, there are various ways that people take part in meaningful writing tasks both professionally and personally.

And while our idea of writers might be an overworked author or journalist churning out books and articles, many non-professional writers put pen to paper daily. Whether this is in the form or letters, emails or a regular blog, writing is something most of us are capable of.

It is a scientifically proven fact that writing is good for us and here are five reasons.

  1. Writing makes us happier.
Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

One of my favourite pastimes is reading old diary entries and wondering what on earth I was thinking at the time. It is enlightening to see our past perspectives reflected at us. Plus, the writing itself is the key ingredient. According to research carried out by Laura King, writing about our dreams and goals can make us feel happier and less burdened.

And gratitude journals are all the range now, and they make us less ‘materialistic’ and increase how generous we are. They also can help people sleep better, reduce their stress and improve our relationships with friends and family.

Plus, there are many reasons people write. Fanfiction (fictional writing written by fans of existing fiction) is all the range now, and while writing millions of words for free is a novel concept, people do it because they enjoy it and receiving validation from their social groups makes them feel appreciated. Blogging is another form of writing, either about personal lives or a specialist topic. Letter writing may be a dying art form, but many people still engage in it to this day. Writing is used to keep records, or update family, to inspire people. It is ubiquitous and there are usually more positive applications than not. 

  1. Writing can be therapeutic

Feeling down? Spend 20 minutes writing about it and you’re guaranteed to feel better! Cheesy sales pitch aside, according to American psychologist, James Pennebaker, short-term writing makes people feel more upbeat and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.

If you would like to give this a try, Greater Good Science Center has a helpful page here.

  1. Writing can improve memory and cognitive skills
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

According to Klein and Boals (2001), when we write about notable life events—particularly the ones which have a negative impact—it improves our ‘working memory’ compared to when we write about trivial topics. They also found that this kind of writing reduced the occurrence of intrusive thoughts and our ability to ignore what was is bothering us. This frees up more working memory and we’re able to process and remember things better.

Writing also allows us to store symbolic information, like numbers, patterns and all those equations we inevitably come across in life. Using this information, we can then analyse and critique this information. Writing requires focus and attention-to-detail and organisational skills—therefore, the more we write, the more we can hone those qualities.

  1. Writing can improve our written and verbal communication

Let’s say someone has a job interview coming up, and you’re nervous about it. What do people do? Find some potential questions and write out answers. The act of writing responses alone will help the applicant in answering in real time. Plus, the more we write, the bigger the chance for improvement. When we can convey a message or idea articulately, we have more confidence in ourselves and our work and we can use that in the future.

  1. Writing boosts your immune system.

True story. Whenever I am dealing with burnout or exhaustion, my writing falls by the wayside (this blog is the perfect example). I will stare at my documents absently, maybe post a tweet or two about writer’s block and feel like my mind is a thunderstorm of ideas and thoughts with no escape hatch. Eventually, I will sit down and write anything. A short poem, or some flash fiction. Or a quick journal entry on my day and I always feel lighter afterwards. The next day I feel refreshed. If I can write about my life, or any emotions I am feeling—the results are even better.

If that sounds like a fluke—it isn’t. Researchers have found that writing about ourselves can lead to improved immune function and for anyone in education, a higher performance. This benefit applies to everyone no matter how old they are. Researchers have also found that writing can improve our health. Studies show that the lung function in asthma patients improved after they’d completed four months of writing regularly about stressful periods in their lives compared to non-asthmatic people who completed the same task. The consensus seems to be that if we can unburden ourselves of stressful thoughts and feelings, we can improve our outlook on life and our health. 

Final thoughts

If you are reading this and thinking writing just isn’t for me, you are not alone. Despite the benefits, there is no evidence that writing is therapeutic for everyone. In fact, it can be the opposite. However, in the short-term, writing your feelings away is never a terrible option—and it’s cost-effective, too. 

References

The Benefits of Writing
Writing Benefits
Science Based Benefits of Writing
How Journaling Can Help You In Hard Times
Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing
If You Feel Thankful, Write It Down. It’s Good For Your Health

 

2 thoughts on “Writing = therapy (or 5 reasons why writing is good for you)”

  1. Yes, I’m with you… “I much prefer looking at clean lined paper and messing it up with my chicken scrawl.” And I find blogging and journaling to be very therapeutic. My favorite right now is a 5 year “One Sentence Journal.” I am on year three. I can look up to 2020 and 2021 and see what I was doing a year ago – two years ago – and of course I never limit myself to just one sentence. Understanding progress and change and rallying courage for tomorrow is an on-going process – – – enhanced by my chicken scrawls and blogs!

    Liked by 1 person

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