Writing can improve your physical and mental health
You have probably heard of the health benefits of undertaking activities like yoga, meditation or psychotherapy. But these activities do not help everyone. We all have different needs, preferences and interests. I would like to talk about a method you might be acquainted with – writing.
Some of us keep a personal diary to record our own daily life. For some, writing down our activities is a cathartic process that can enable us to make sense of what has happened. Writing is not a gender or age specific technique. For some, writing can help the person to move on from a stressful or traumatic event. After experiencing a stressful event we may have difficulty sleeping because we are thinking about it all night or we may be distracted from daily activities. This is basically multi-tasking and when we multi-task, we often do less well because we are not paying full attention. Through a technique known as expressive writing we can take a step away from what is troubling us and evaluate what has happened. We create a narrative we can ‘see’. Expressive writing enables us to become active participants in our own stories and gives us a stronger sense of self-control. Traumatic and stressful experiences can make our stories fractured. With concrete sets of reinforced instructions, the stories we then create through expressive writing can help structure and give coherence to these stories, making the experience more manageable. A growing body of academic evidence supports this approach. Expressive writing has now been linked to improved physical and mental health, with studies identifying enhanced recovery after traumatic experiences and improved sleeping. Expressive writing works because it enables us to actively think about and express our emotions. Narrating and organising experiences can give additional meaning to traumatic events. Grammar and spelling are irrelevant, the process encourages us to be free to write in whatever style feels most natural. You do not get graded on what you write. Opening up about a story in a private way, through writing, can also allow us to open up and talk to others. If you do not have 20 minutes, start small with 5 minutes once or twice a day and gradually increase the time. As you write, you try to make sense of the world around you and your inner world. You are writing for yourself, no one else. Researchers at the University of Nottingham are looking into the effects of expressive writing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.