Terilee Wunderman, Ph.D.
Did you know that writing expressively about an upsetting event for just 15 minutes a day can improve your health? Studies have shown that people who wrote about traumatic memories visited the doctor 43% less often than people who didn’t write or who wrote about superficial topics (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986). Shortly after writing for 15 minutes about a traumatic event, both blood pressure and heart rate levels were lowered. Even during the times people were actually writing, they demonstrated lowered muscle tension and reduced perspiration in their hands — clear signs of alleviating anxiety and stress. These significant physical changes are keys to improving your heart’s health and overall well-being.
Expressive writing takes only pen and paper. It doesn’t matter how you write about what bothered you. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or complete sentences. Don’t judge, critique or edit your writings. The key is to express what’s in your heart that’s troubled you as a way of letting it go and relieving the emotional pain. Write expressively about whatever memory is disturbing you, then put your writing aside. Keep it in a private journal, tear or burn it up, or save it in a document on your computer in case you might want to turn it into your best-selling memoir someday. But for now, take the time to let your heart express itself. Give your heart a voice, and discover the relief and healing that expressive writing can bring you.
If your writings bring up issues you want to explore further, consult a psychologist or therapist who supports expressive writing as an integral part of therapy.
Reference: Pennebaker, J.W. and Beall, S.W. (1986). Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95:274-281.