LifeJournal™ Newsletter – August 2011

 

I can’t wait a second longer to tell you about some high-powered journal-focused events in the next few weeks!

Read down to the bottom…There’s a LOT of great stuff available. Feel free to to sign up for several events. Please, don’t delay: It helps us plan better if you sign up sooner rather than later.

Let’s begin with IAJW classes–which are taught by the best of the best!


CLASSES:

NOTE: All of the classes offer discounts to International Association for Journal Writing members. Joining IAJW is well worth the $49/year.  Not only does IAJW membership give you a discount for every class you take, but you have access whenever you want to all kinds of inspiring and interactive information: articles, telechats, video, visual prompts and more, all about some aspect of journaling. Guaranteed to expand and deepen your journal writing. Learn more at www.IAJW.org.  

AND, I highly recommend a class IAJW Journal Council member Eric Maisel is teaching, called Your Best Life in the Arts. This is a class that will be valuable if you are a professional or aspiring writer, memoirist, poet, screen writer, playwright, and nonfiction writer, or any other kind of creative person–visual artist, performer, if you’ve abandoned the arts and want to return, or you’re a coach, therapist, or other professional who want to learn about the challenges of the creative life. Really it’s for anyone interested in the creative life. Don’t delay–sign up for Eric’s class now!

Learn more about the Introduction to LifeJournal webinars that we’re offering about once a week. And they are no cost! We want to make sure you getting the most out of the LIfeJournal software.  And there’s an article that will give you background about Dr. James Pennebaker’s landmark work.

Keep writing, stay aware, and create goodness in the world,

Ruth

Ruth Folit
www.lifejournal.com – LifeJournal software
www.facebook.com/LifeJournalSoftware (Click the “LIKE” button!)
www.IAJW.org – The International Association for Journal Writing
blog.lifejournal.com
rfolit@lifejournal.com

Free Webinars for LifeJournal:

New to LifeJournal?  New to journal writing?  Have you had LifeJournal, but you’re not using it fully?

Sign up for a free Introduction to LifeJournal webinars-no cost at all–which is offered about 3 times a month. The sessions are informal and informational.  On your computer screen you’ll see LifeJournal as we describe best practices,  and you can hear and speak using your computer or a telephone. You’ll be able to see LifeJournal in action on your computer and there’s plenty of time to ask questions. Learn more.

James Pennebaker andThe Power of Words
by Ruth Folit 

James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. is a pioneer in the research of the power of words. He has written books and articles describing the effects of writing on health. Compared to control groups who only wrote about more superficial topics, people who wrote about meaningful or traumatic events improved their health, immune function, hormonal activity, and other biological markers of stress or disease. Other researchers have found similar results in subjects who wrote about emotional topics: improved grades among college students and faster re-employment among unemployed workers. Researchers have tested subjects from different cultures, classes, and on different personality types and results show parallel outcomes. Of course, some people seem to benefit more than others, just as in other psychological treatments. In fact, it seems that the average effect of writing about meaningful events is similar to or greater than the ranges produced in other psychological treatments.

What is it about writing that produces the benefits? Pennebaker believes it is more than just the venting or the expressing of strong emotions that help people change. The research shows that the difference is linked to the way people think about the traumatic event, their emotions, and themselves. It seems that writing helps people construct a coherent, reasoned story, leading to new meaning and understanding of the given situation.

Pennebaker’s research developed a computer-based, text analysis program to analyze word counts in different categories, such as emotion words (e.g. happy, sad, angry, joyful), cognitive words (e.g. realize, understand, think), self-reference words (e.g. I, we) and an additional 70 categories. Much to the surprise of the researchers, the change in emotion words didn’t correspond to improved health. The more powerful predictor of improved health was the use of cognitive words–that is, individuals who showed an overall increase in the use of causal words (e.g. because, reason) and insight words (e.g. realize, know, understand) showed improved health.

Also very interesting was research that showed that writing about emotional topics not only improved health, but also changed the interaction between people in speaking situations. This research was accomplished with permission from the research subjects who wore recording devices that would periodically go on and off and catch several minutes of conversation. When researchers analyzed and compared the recorded conversations of the research subjects before and after the writing sessions, researchers noted significant changes in subjects’ patterns of speaking, use of self-references, and use of positive emotion words. These data are the first to demonstrate that writing about emotional topics ultimately brings about objective changes in social and language behaviors in the real world.

Further linguistic analysis research shows something that on the surface seems odd: the flexibility in the use of pronouns (e.g. I, we, he, she, they, and it) is a powerful predictor of improvements in physical health. That is, individuals who shift the kinds of pronouns they use on a day to day basis (for example, first personal singular one day and use first person plural another day and so on) experience improved health. This shifting use of pronouns demonstrates that the writers are changing the ways that are thinking about themselves relative to others. Pennebaker writes about these studies in his new book, The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us.

Considering that language is the foundation of the human communication and the filter through which we understand and learn about ourselves, the world, and others, it is no huge surprise that the use of words is strongly connected to our daily thoughts, emotions, and behavior. This research strongly suggests that including meaningful emotional content for some part of journal writing may improve health as well as enhance general well-being.

End Quotes:

“Language is the source of misunderstandings.” –Antoine de St.-Exupery

“As was his language, so was his life.” –Seneca