Science Reveals the Advantage Writers Have Over the Rest of Us
Science has good news for people who write: The consequences of putting pen to paper go beyond hand cramps and furrowed eyebrows.
Study after study has linked the act of writing to myriad mental and physical health benefits, including elevated mood and emotional well-being, decreased stress, an improved ability to deal with trauma and even physical healing.
Dealing with your emotional well-being: Research on the advantages of so-called expressive writing, or describing one's thoughts and feelings on paper, has clearly shown it can make a person happier. One study from psychologists in the United States found married couples who wrote about their problems reported higher overall happiness in their marriages compared to couples who did not write about their issues.
Another study showed freshman college students who wrote about their struggles adjusting to their new environments received better grades compared to students who didn't, according to the New York Times. "These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself," Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor who has researched the benefits of expressive writing, told the New York Times earlier this year.
Thinking about the future: Expressive writing especially paid off when describing one's goals for the future. "Writing about life goals was significantly less upsetting than writing about trauma and was associated with a significant increase in subjective well-being," psychologist Laura King found.
The evidence for the advantages putting one's goals to paper was also chemical. German researchers discovered when adults wrote about life goals, there was a distinct drop in participants' levels of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone that affects well-being (less cortisol means less stress).
Blogging for therapy: Writing exercises weren't limited to jotting down one's thoughts in a notebook or typing them out, but also extended to a 21st-century medium we're almost all familiar with: blogging.
Nancy Morgan, who has researched how expressive writing affected how cancer patients thought about their conditions, found blogging "undoubtedly affords similar benefits" to a person's health as expressive writing, according to Scientific American. Cancer patients who blogged were generally more optimistic and reported a higher quality of life, according to Morgan's study.
The word that comes to mind when describing how writing can improve well-being is therapeutic and, "What is therapy but a form of storytelling?" Irish writer and National Book Award winner Colum McCann told CNN. "Storytelling is the great democracy. We all want to — need to — tell our stories. There is a certain catharsis in being able to tell your story, in confronting your demons."
Expedited recovery: Other research demonstrated that writing may speed up healing. According to a study from researchers in New Zealand, physical wounds healed faster after trauma when people documented their experiences and emotions.
"We think writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress," Elizabeth Broadbent, the study's co-author and a professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, told Scientific American.
If science isn't convincing enough, trust the words of Virgin mogul Richard Branson, who said his "most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook."