My first blog post of the year is motivated by an article that appeared in my Facebook feed yesterday titled Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write, by Rachel Grate. I have been fortunate enough to experience the benefits of writing, so I just wanted to emphasize the importance of writing as a means of therapy and for greater mental and physical well-being.
Growing up, I hated to write papers. It was probably because I hated the books assigned to us for reading and having to write papers for every single one of them—all in short order and on a non-stop basis. Reading these books and writing papers on them had no meaning for me. Sorry to offend the book lovers out there, but just being candid here about how I felt about my school assignments. Back then, I didn’t believe there was any benefit from doing all this. Especially since I sucked at writing papers. I lacked the patience to read books back then, and I still lack patience today. I started writing/journaling my thoughts pretty much for the first time, ever, after my daughter was born. And let me tell you….if it weren’t for writing my book and blogging, I would NOT be where I am today—a much healthier and happier person overall!
Well, regardless of whether you write like a JK Rowling or some other well-known novelist, writing can provide both psychological and physical health benefits. Studies, some of which are mentioned in Ms. Tate’s article, have shown that expressive writing can improve mood, reduce stress, reduce the occurrence of illnesses, lower blood pressure, and even promote recovery from illnesses or the healing of physical wounds faster. When there is an improvement of mood and reduction in stress, it makes sense that one is usually able to sleep better.
One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.
I do realize the ability to sleep better with less stress is a general statement and that there are, in fact, exceptions. Depression is one example in which medication may be needed to combat insomnia. I’ve been there. I know. And it’s NO mind over matter thing. It’s neurochemical.
Expressive writing is when you write about something that is causing stress in your life….from difficulties at work, at home, in your marriage, as a new mom or as a teen having friendship or bullying trouble in school……to emotional traumas such as a current and/or past abusive situation, coping with a mental health disorder, etc. Writing my book and most of my blog posts that were motivated by anger involved extracting all my thoughts from my head and putting them down on paper. This process–what I refer to as regurgitation, rumination, digestion and then transformation of thoughts into words that appear online in my blog or on paper in my book—enabled me to fully process my emotions. To this day, I continue to find great relief in getting my thoughts out on Facebook and/or my blog (depends on what is causing me grief) whenever I am annoyed or upset about something that happened 1) during my commute to/from work, 2) at work, 3) in the news, or 4) online. I have said this previously that every time I get my words out, I feel lighter….like a heavy weight is being lifted off my back.
Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, [one] can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up.
As I stated in my interview with Dr. Walker Karraa over two years ago, the process of writing my book helped transform me into a different person…a much healthier person both mentally and physically. I experienced a metaphorsis, thanks in huge part, to writing.
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but ever since 2-3 years ago, which is right around the time I published my book that took me since 2005 to write, I have experienced fewer illnesses. I used to get sick many times throughout the year, without fail, especially in the winter where I would fall victim to frequent colds, the flu, and chronic bronchitis (since I am very superstitious, I am going to knock on wood now as I say all this). Are we supposed to experience fewer illnesses as we get older? Maybe so, but for me it makes an awful lot of sense that there is a direct correlation between levels of happiness and your state of health. Especially when the scientists and their research show a correlation between happiness and stronger immune systems (and levels of inflammation).
So, if you are reading this post and don’t typically write, then you may want to consider picking up the pen (or putting fingers to keyboard) and writing more starting this year. You won’t regret it!