The more people I’ve helped to write, the more obvious it’s become to me that writing about oneself is enormously therapeutic. “Well, brilliant, Watson,” you may snort. “That’s a well-worn fact and everyone knows it.” And I agree. Therapeutic writing has been around since … hmm … well, since diaries and journals first began, around the time the written word was invented.
We all appreciate how much better we feel after venting in an email, or on a forum, despite the possible backlash that letting it all hang out online can engender. But as a writing coach I’ve seen something quite special occur many, many times when people sit down to write their story. It’s a healing that’s almost palpable. Not only does the writer come to terms with hurt, betrayal and anger (you’d think that would be reward enough) but they also enjoy an improvement in overall mental and physical health.
Putting feelings down on paper certainly helps mental clarity. But there’s much more to it than that. Dr James Pennebaker, a Texas researcher, found that when people wrote about the hard stuff—emotionally difficult feelings and events—for as little as twenty minutes at a time over four days, their immune functioning increased. There was a direct impact on the body’s ability to withstand stress, and fight off infection and disease.
Makes you want to write, doesn’t it?