If you’ve ever wondered if writing improves happiness, you’re on the right track. For those that love writing, it’s a no-brainer to sit down and put those thoughts on paper. The feeling of satisfaction that one gets from adding their thoughts, dreams and wrong-turns of life, is undeniably therapeutic, but journaling might have more benefits than just providing a feeling of satisfaction at a story well told. Studies show that writing in a journal can actually help people to heal more quickly, and also lower their levels of stress hormones.
Writing about things that are honestly traumatic, frightening and upsetting, has been shown to help the body heal about 4.4 times faster than if negative events aren’t put on paper. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, asked participants to write for about 20 minutes daily for three days in a row after receiving a small biopsy on their upper arm. After 11 days, 76 percent of the adults that wrote down how they felt, what they thought and their general emotions about events that were upsetting to them were able to heal from the biopsy wound. However, 42 percent of the participants that just wrote down impersonal information about daily routines were healed.
It isn’t just journal writing that can have benefits. A study in The Journal of Health Psychology, where a team of German scientists asked adults to write about their personal goals in life in three sessions in a row found that writing about goals can also have a positive effect on people. When they did this, the participants’ cortisol activating response, which is a marker that is linked to psychosocial and physical feelings of wellbeing, was significantly lowered. Plus, after the first life goal writing exercise, participants noticed that their moods were up, but the warm feeling didn’t extend through repeat sessions.
Both of these studies used previous study findings, which helped to establish a link between journaling about traumatic events and life goals and drops in doctor visits related to illnesses. Stress is often associated with slower healing of wounds, and experts believe that writing down one’s deepest dreams and worst memories can bring about many healthy body benefits.
Elizabeth Bradbent, PhD, author of the Psychosomatic Medicine study, and senior lecturer of psychological medicine with the University of Auckland in New Zealand says that in theory, writing helps a person to process events properly, which allows them to make sense of it and then move past it. It’s essential to avoid obsessing over events, and repeatedly journaling about negative events can actually keep people from moving beyond the event.
Although the current research isn’t clear enough to prescribe writing for everyone, it is clear that there is a link to writing and mental and physical wellbeing, and working things out in your heart can be beneficial for your body.