The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays the objects it lovesCarl Jung
You don’t have to take my word for it or that of my writing colleagues either. Psychologists, neuroscientists and other researchers have revealed health and emotional benefits of expressive writing. The meditative action of handwriting alone has proven beneficial. Think of the poetry of laying down an intelligent pattern over a surface: the subtle “prayer” of pen to paper to the renewal of self-discovery.
Over the past 20 years, a growing body of literature has shown beneficial effects of writing about traumatic, emotional and stressful events on physical and emotional health. For instance, researchers have shown that college students writing about their deepest thoughts and feelings for only 15 minutes over 4 consecutive days experienced significant health benefits four months later (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986). Table 1 summarizes some of the long-term benefits of expressive writing.
|TABLE 1: Long-Term Benefits of Expressive Writing|
|Health||Social & Behavioral|
|Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor||Reduced absenteeism from work|
|Improved immune system functioning||Quicker re-employment after job loss|
|Reduced blood pressure||Improved working memory|
|Improved lung function||Improved sporting performance|
|Improved liver function||Higher student’s grade point average|
|Fewer days in hospital||Altered social and linguistic behavior|
|Greater psychological well-being|
|Reduced depressive symptoms|
|Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms|
|Reference: Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005|
DeSalvo shares something a friend of hers confided to her: “Why is it that I always get sick after I finish a book, and not while I’m writing? Crazy as it sounds,” she concluded, “it must be that writing keeps me healthy.” Although writing can’t cure us, some studies suggest that it might prolong our lives, says DeSalvo. It can help us “to accomplish that shift in perspective marked by acceptance, authenticity, depth, serenity and wisdom that is the hallmark of genuine healing.”
Expressive writing produces significant benefits for people with a variety of medical problems. Some of the major ones appear in Table 2 below.
|TABLE 2: Medical Conditions Benefiting from Expressive Writing|
|Lung functioning in ASTHMA|
|Disease severity (improvements in joint stiffness) in RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS|
|Pain and physical health in CANCER|
|Immune response in HIV Infection|
|Hospitalisations for CYSTIC FIBROSIS|
|Pain intensity in women with CHRONIC PELVIC PAIN|
|Sleep-onset latency in POOR SLEEPERS|
|Reference: Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005|
This article is an excerpt from The Journal Writer: Finding Your Voice (Pixl Press, 2013) by Nina Munteanu.
The Journal Writer is the second writing guide in the Alien Guidebook Series. This comprehensive guidebook will help you choose the best medium, style and platform for your expressive writing. The guide provides instruction on issues of safety, using the computer and electronic devices, social media and the internet.
“Engaging, accessible, and easily applicable…Brava, Nina, brava.”—David Merchant, Instructor, Louisianna Tech University
“Straight up, fact-filled, enriching, joyful and thorough…Nina is honest, she is human and she wants you to succeed.”—Cathi Urbonas, Halifax writer
Baikie, Karen & Kay Wilhelm. 2005. “Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing.” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 11: 338-346.
DeSalvo, Louise. 1999. “Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives.” Beacon Press, Boston. 226pp.
Hieb, Marianne. 2005. “Inner Journeying Through Art-Journaling”. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, England. 176pp.
Holly, Mary Louise. 1989. “Writing to Grow. Keeping a personal-professional journal”. Heinemann. Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Klug, Ron. 2002. “How to Keep a Spiritual Journal: a guide to journal keeping for inner growth and personal discovery.” Augsburg, Minneapolis, 4th ed.
Moon, Jennifer. 1999. “Learning Journals: A handbook for academics, students and professional development”. Kogan Page. London.
Pennebaker, James. W. 1990. “Opening Up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others”. Morrow, New York, NY.
Pennebaker, James W., and Sandra Klihr Beall. 1986. “Confronting a Traumatic Event: Toward an Understanding of Inhibition and Disease”. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 95, no. 3: 274-81.
Munteanu, Nina. 2013. “The Journal Writer: Finding Your Voice.” Pixl Press, Vancouver. 170pp.
NINA MUNTEANU is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press(Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” was released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.