Interesting Article: Writing About Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process

Hello All,

Today’s post follows on from Claire Graham’s post yesterday around the benefits of therapeutic writing. Today we present an interesting research article from one of the first people to study the idea of writing about emotional experiences and the positive benefits that come from this. We know you might not feel like reading a whole research article so we have summarised the main points for you here. If you do want to read the whole thing however the link is at the bottom (don’t worry it’s only 6 pages long…). So on to the summary……

Did you ever think that writing down something could help you in managing cancer and relieving stress?

What about in this era, tapping out your experience on a key board just for yourself or to share it with a friend or loved one by email, or starting your own blog, There are many people using this mode to express and share their feelings.

The following article has been written by a man who has been pioneering in his belief that writing can be therapeutic.

We, at ARC, have also witnessed how some of our visitors have found writing helpful in being able to express and understand their emotions better. Putting it on paper helps to unload it from their minds and bodies and has benefits physically and emotionally.

Read on and see what you think, we would welcome your comments…

James Pennebaker is Regents Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Pennebaker has authored and edited 10 books and approximately 300 scientific articles, ranking him among the most cited researchers in the areas of psychology, psychiatry, and the social sciences. The American Psychological Association recognises him as one of the top researchers on disclosure and health.

Pennebaker is a pioneer of writing therapy and was one of the first to discover that people could improve their physical and mental health by writing about emotional experiences rather than keeping secrets. Following this research, this whole area became known as expressive writing. Pennebaker has written a book on the subject entitled Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotion and Writing to Heal.

The article presented here is the early piece of work that presents Pennebaker’s finding that people can improve their physical and mental health through writing. Pennebaker talks about the idea that when people write about emotional experiences there are physical and mental health benefits. Pennebaker says that disclosure in this way can have a powerful therapeutic affect and be part of the healing process.

In this study it was found that all groups benefit found benefit from writing despite individual differences, across all settings. The people in the study reported that although the writing may have been painful or upsetting at times, they all said that the writing experience was meaningful and valuable in their lives. It was also found that writing about emotional experiences produced long-term improvements in mood and reductions in distress. Writing or talking about emotional experiences has been found to have a beneficial physical influences on the immune system, changes in autonomic activity (lower heart rate) and changes in muscular activity.

Why is writing helpful?

This article presents 2 ideas as to why writing may be helpful.

1. A lot of physical and mental energy goes into keeping in emotional thoughts, feelings and behaviours and this can cause stress. Writing or talking about these emotional experiences may be a release of what is ‘kept in’ and can reduce stressful feeling.
2. Writing can help to translate an emotional experience into our own language so that we can unravel and understand it better in our own heads.

Here is the link to the full article if you would like to read it for yourself.

So what do you think? Did James Pennebaker have a point??

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