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Evans, EdD published October 1, If you are living with arthritisit may surprise you to learn that expressive writing can provide a low-cost, nonpharmacologicalyet effective self-care method. For many who have tried it, expressive writing relieves pain and alleviates other symptoms of this chronic condition.
Researchers believe that expressive writing mitigates conscious and unconscious stressors that cause inflammation and suppress immune function. Expressive writing records your feelings, especially feelings about previously undisclosed trauma or other stressful events that occupy your mind more than you would like, including stress from arthritis.
Perhaps the best thing about expressive writing therapy, other than its low cost, is that you do not need to be a writer, aspire to be a writer, or even enjoy writing to benefit from it. It does not matter whether you write with pen or pencil or with a keyboard.
In fact, even if you are physically unable to write, researchers have found that positive health benefits occur when people speak into a recorder in response to the expressive writing prompts.
Thousands of people have benefitted from a model of expressive writing first developed and researched by James Pennebaker, PhD, in Since then, Pennebaker and others have conducted more than research studies demonstrating that for many, expressive writing may boost thinking ability, improve working memory, reduce pain, tension, and fatigue, enhance mood and sleep quality, and positively influence immune system function.
Expressive writing versus journaling Researchers Joshua Smyth and Pennebaker both caution that not just any writing will benefit your health or help you stay healthy. Journaling, the practice of writing without any specific direction or goal in mind, may actually become harmful if the writing does not move from expressing feelings to meaning and affirmation.
Similarly, maintaining a daily event diary simply to record events without examining the impact of those events on your life is unlikely to be helpful.
What does yield results is writing to express feelings about a stressful event, a chronic illness, or a loss continuously over several days and building on that expressive writing to make sense of those stressful events.
In studies of expressive writing, participants wrote for 15—30 minutes on four consecutive days about the most traumatic events in their lives.
Writing continuously about a problem allowed the participants to thoroughly examine the events and how they were affected by them. After the third day of expressive writing, participants were encouraged to write about the event from a different perspective and then to write in such a way as to place the event in the context of their overall lives.
In contrast, those who used the writing time to examine the event and put it into perspective had the best results.
Turning the memory into a story can be painful at first, and both Smyth and Pennebaker report that people sometimes feel worse when they first begin expressive writing, much as seeing a powerfully emotional movie may make you sad for an hour or two afterward.
But soon, that sad feeling subsides, and often a new perspective emerges. Complete improvement in symptoms sometimes can take weeks or months to notice, but generally, people notice significant improvement in two or three weeks.
The main problem with simple journaling is that when journal writing becomes rumination, it can become harmful, and it may actually re-traumatize the writer each time he or she writes, because the writer relives the event without experiencing any change in perspective or meaning.
All you need to do to see whether you might benefit from expressive writing is to express your feelings in writing for as little as 15 to 20 minutes a day over a three- to four-day period.
Be your own researcher. Try expressive writing prompts over a four-day period, and use the post-writing survey at right after each day.
Then pay attention to how you feel in the coming weeks and months. How to begin expressive, creative writing To begin your own expressive writing research, follow these directions from Pennebaker.
Days one and two of expressive writing In your writing, really let go and explore your deepest emotions and thoughts about the most traumatic experience in your entire life. You might tie this trauma to other parts of your life.
You might link your writing to your future and who you would like to become, or to who you have been, who you would like to be, or who you are now. Not everyone has had a single trauma, but all of us have had major conflicts or stressors, and you can write about these as well.In addition, we suggest how expressive writing can be used as a therapeutic tool for survivors of trauma and in psychiatric settings.
Karen Baikie is a clinical psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow with the Black Dog Institute and School of Psychiatry. The growth of expressive writing research ignited by James Pennebaker’s research also fueled the recognition that stories, written and shared, help us heal.
Stories offer . Nov 08, · Expressive Writing 1 is designed for students who have not mastered foundational writing skills and Expressive Writing 2 is aimed at students who have a grasp of sentence structure but have problems with clarity, speech marks, punctuation and sentence variety.
Research into the therapeutic action of writing The expressive writing paradigm.
Expressive writing is a form of writing therapy developed primarily by James W. Pennebaker in the late s. The seminal expressive writing study instructed participants in the experimental group to write about a 'past trauma', expressing their .
Expressive writing has the power to reduce the harmful effects of stress by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure while simultaneously strengthening your immune system and improving your self-esteem.
Expressive writing, sometimes called written emotional disclosure, is a fancy term for such a simple act: expressing oneself through writing. It may sound complicated, but most of us have done it at some point in our lives, through keeping a journal or a diary.
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