Writing for Good Health
Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve always had an interest in the English subject. This may prove to be an interesting fact for those who know that during these same elementary school days, I had future plans to attend USC and become an MD. Then I learned how much schooling it would take, and I said “No, thank you!” Thus, I found myself back into the arms of my beloved English which has proved an excellent move.
In my younger years, English was always my strongest subject. My grades were always higher in English as opposed to any other subject, especially math. I excelled in English because writing came easy for me. It was something that I loved to do and something that, I later found out, I was good at. It wasn’t until my adolescent years that I actually started using writing for therapeutic purposes.
Various studies have proven the health benefits of writing. In 1999, 58 asthma patients who used expressive writing as an outlet over a 4-month period showed improvements in lung function while 49 rheumatoid arthritis patients showed improvements in overall disease activity in the same study. Each group was told to simply write about stressful life experiences they encountered. Furthermore, with the help of 42 metastatic renal cell carcinoma patients, in 2002 results suggested that expressive writing may have sleep-related health benefits in terminally ill cancer patients.
Putting one’s experiences into a story is also known to improve physical and mental health. Narrative writing for one’s own situation gives meaning to the event and manages the emotions associated with it which helps a person forget about what is troubling him or her. Looks like our English teachers may have been onto something. Writing as a therapeutic exercise provides a substantial amount of health benefits for patients and non-patients alike. Those without diseases can also benefit from writing, as perspectives become clearer and stress reduces.
Aside from the studies, I have a first-hand experience with the benefits of writing. Personally, I use both expressive writing and narrative writing. Both forms provide me with a clearer mindset and release any emotions I may be feeling. Going back to elementary, I used to write in my diary about the occurrences in each day. This journaling later turned into expressive poetry where I would simply write about my situations and include a rhyme scheme. Now, I am venturing more into narrative writing still in the form of poetry. In this way, I am able to refrain from the multitude of issues that accompany stress.
Although I am an English major and I enjoy this kind of stuff, you don’t have to be in the same boat. In high school, a friend of mine was going through a tough time and I suggested that she write out all of her feelings and let the tears flow if need be. After she did it, she expressed to me how much the exercise helped her. It excited me to learn that she still uses expressive writing in college as a way to find clarity in her situations and release her emotions.
Writing is a free-for-all, anyone can indulge. You don’t have to be Shakespearian or worry about guidelines laid out in writer’s handbooks. All you have to do is allow yourself to revisit your experience and write from your heart. That, in itself, will give you all the poetics you’ll need
If you are presently in a stressful state of mind, I challenge you to use the Pennebaker and Beall technique which requires you to write expressively about a traumatic experience over a 3-day period. Express your thoughts and feelings on the situation and watch what the power of expressive writing can do for your overall health and outlook on your situations.
If you’re already a frequent writer, tell me about the positive impact writing has made on your life.