Did you know that writing about pain can actually have a positive effect on your immune system?
A series of studies have shown that people who take the time to write down traumatic events in their life not only feel better, but actually physically become better, too.
Studies show that writing down your pain actually has a positive effect on your immune system. Not only that, it can help with the healing process.
In the following article, we will look at the science behind how the cathartic properties of writing work, as well as some ways to help you get motivated to write.
The positive physical effects of writing on the body were first noticed by James Pennebaker in 1986, who was then the chair of the psychology department at Southern Methodist University.
Pennebaker made this startling discovery while performing a rather simple experiment involving “expressive writing.”
Pennebaker asked a number of test subjects write for fifteen minutes about the worst thing that had ever happened to them in their life.
The subjects were told to open up completely, letting out their innermost thoughts and details regarding this traumatic event. The process was difficult for many students, many of whom broke down crying.
However, students also found the process comforting, and when they were asked if they wanted to stop, always asked to be allowed to continue.
Pennebaker contrasted these students to a control group who wrote about normal things, describing their bedroom, a tree outside, or something equally bland.
He observed these students for six months. After this period of time, he observed that the students writing about something traumatic went to the doctor significantly less.
You can listen to an interview with Pennebaker here.
Pennebroker’s groundbreaking experiment opened up a new field of research called “psychoneuroimmunology,” an area of study that explores how expressive writing actually improves the functioning of our immune systems.
How It Works
How can you use writing to improve your immune system? It’s as easy as buying a journal. Write in your journal every day, and you will start feeling much stronger and better.
Many people, however, find it difficult to get motivated to start writing, so here are some tips.
1. Stream of Consciousness
Start by simply trying to describe the events that happened, and then write down your thoughts as they happen, in a stream of consciousness method. Write how you talk; don’t try to force it.
2. Keep Good Habits
Most great writers worked at the same time every day, usually the wee hours of the morning, so that they didn’t have to feel motivated to write.
Just like if you eat at the same time every day, you will no longer experience hunger, writing at the same time every day means you won’t need to feel motivated before writing.
3. Overcome Writer’s Block
We all get it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing down your thoughts or you’re a natural Shakespeare; we all get writer’s block from time to time.
Most novice writers simply walk away from pen and paper, or try to wait it out. But if we look at the creative processes of famous artists and writers, we see that may of them blasted through writer’s block in various unique ways, such as reaching for a simple cup of coffee.
One of the best options? Take a walk in nature to recharge your brain and stimulate your creativity.