I often get clients who come to workshops or one-on-one coaching sessions with me because their therapists sent them. My writing workshops and coaching don't take the place of one-on-one time with a professional therapist but they often serve to supplement the work done in a counselor's office. Simply put, expressive narrative writing not only improves our emotional and mental health, but studies show that writing about our past can even improve our physical health. There’s no wonder, then, why more and more mental health professionals recognize expressive writing as beneficial for overall wellbeing.
The Journal of Continuing Professional Development for Advances in Psychiatric Treatment reported the psychological health benefits of expressive writing and developing a coherent narrative over time (2005). Consistently writing our stories and revising them, in other words, in conjunction with using positive – emotion words about what we have come to understand and realize as a result of certain life experiences (including traumatic ones) can have a profound effect on the way we think about ourselves and others. Their findings are supported by several other studies, as well, which suggest that writing as little as 20 minutes a day can lesson anxiety and depression, including severe disorders such as PTSD (Pennebaker 1986, 1991). Although many writers avoid putting their traumatic experiences in prose because they fear reliving the experiences by retelling them, studies show that writing about such experiences allows the author to take control over what has happened to them. Organizing their thoughts around the incidents and making meaning out of them empowers the survivor to tell their truth and may provide a sense of calm and relief.
The soothing effect of writing can also provide healing in the body. Because writing consistently can reduce stress levels and depression, some patients living with long-term illnesses have benefited from writing by releasing stress and tension in the body. Some patients who suffered from asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and even cancer and AIDS showed significant improvement after writing about their experiences.
The physical and mental growth that some experience as a result of writing can also be accompanied by spiritual growth. Within memoirs and other forms of expressive writing, authors often grapple with issues of identity and belonging, and their connection to a “higher self.” Writers might also experience instances of gratitude and forgiveness.
Writing is simply good medicine. It can improve your mood by helping you release emotions that could be weighing you down, and it can help you create order around "uncontrollable" thoughts concerning traumatic experiences, which can enable you to gain peace of mind, body, and spirit.
If you're thinking about writing for wellness purposes contact me here