02 February 2018
Research has shown that writing can help make people feel happier, healthier and even improve the body's healing processes. A range of studies have highlighted the benefits of writing, including one that found expressive writing can lead to:
- Significant improvement in lung function in asthma sufferers.
- Improved immune response in HIV patients.
- Decreased admission rates in cystic fibrosis.
- Improvements in joint stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis.
- Improved immune response in glandular fever.
Australian researchers Karen A. Balkle and Kay Wilhelm asked college students to write for 15 minutes about 'the most traumatic or upsetting experiences' of their entire lives over four consecutive days, wile others wrote about superficial topics.
It was found that those who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings reported significant benefits in both objectively assessed and self-reported physical health four months later.
Another study, conducted by the Auckland School of Medicine, found that writing improved the healing process among a group of 64 - to 97-year-olds, who each underwent a biopsy in their arm.
During the study, the 49 participants wrote about either upsetting events or daily activities for 20 minutes over three days. After two weeks, they were subjected to an arm biopsy. By day 11, following the procedure, 76% of the group that wrote about the upsetting events had fully healed, compared with just 42% of the control group that wrote about trivial daily events.
It is thought that writing about traumatic events reduces the amount of physical and emotional distress a person experiences and thus aids the physical healing process.
The benefits of writing (and reading) also extend to mental health, as stimulating the brain helps to reduce memory loss, stave off cognitive decline and can reduce depression.
Other benefits include opening the door on the opportunity to make a host of new friends, as Australia is home to a thriving literary culture with more than 30 annual events, including the world famous Sydney Writers Festival, Darwin's Word Storm, the Perth Writers Festival, and the Melbourne Writers Festival and Adelaide Writers' Week. To find out if there are any upcoming events near you, check out the Australian Literary Festival Schedule online.
Who would have thought that improving your health would be as simple as picking up a pen?