Write about Deep and Meaningful Stuff and Stay Healthy

by Ruth Folit

James W. Pennebaker, PhD has performed research for years about writing and the effect it has on the health of writers. He conducted experiments that assigned college students who had volunteered to be a part of the study to write for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. Each student was randomly assigned to only write about (1) something superficial, (2) the facts of a traumatic event, or (3) his/her emotions related to a traumatic event. Pennebaker then tracked the number of visits each group made to the university health clinic during the four months after the four days of writing. Those in group # 3 went to the health clinic HALF as often as the students who just wrote about superficialities or just the fact of the traumatic events. Those who expressed their emotions stayed noticeably healthier than the other two groups for up to four months after the writing!

Wanting to create a follow-up study that would either further support or refute this first study, Pennebaker’s next study had volunteer college students divided into the same three groups, as above. This time, he measured the immune function of the writers. He took blood samples of the writers before they started the writing days, after the last day of writing, and again six weeks after writing. The results backed up the first study: People who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feeling surrounding traumatic events they had experienced showed stronger immune function compared with those who wrote about more superficial topics. Pennebaker and other researchers have shown again and again that writing about emotional upheaval improves health and improved immune function. What you write about doesn’t have to be about the most traumatic event in your life, but among other things, focus on the important issues that are current in your life.

Listen to Nancy Morgan talk about journaling to heal