I’ve written before about the benefits of personal writing: the research shows that writing (and rewriting) one’s story can bring about greater happiness. Again and again, people ease emotional burden and recharge their lives after writing their stories. The act of writing—whether it is shared or not—is hugely cathartic.
What is new to this blog, however, is the fact that personal writing has huge healing benefits to the body as well. According to research conducted by social scientist James W. Pennebaker, people who engage in expressive or personal writing experience visit doctors less often than those who do not. Additionally, in the months after participating in a series of expressive writing exercises, people experience:
- Decreased heart rate
- Lowered blood pressure
- Enhanced breathing
- Strengthened immune system
- Improved self-esteem
- Greater effectiveness in managing stress
Pennebaker has made a career out of studying the impact of expressive writing. He’s an expert on the biological effects, the psychological effects, and the behavioral changes that follow personal writing exercises. After decades immersed in the field, his conclusion is quite simple: “Writing [has] a far more powerful tool for healing than anyone [could ever] imagine.”
We all have different reasons for wanting to write our life stories. Some of us want to preserve memories for our family. Some of us enjoy the process of reflecting on our history. Some of us have lessons we want to convey to our children.
But all of us could benefit from a healthier mind and body.