Wisdom and positive thinking around your wrist. This can be found on Féminin Sacré ‘s website.
Writing as therapy is not a new phenomenon. Journal therapy was developed in America in the 1960s. Purposeful and intentional reflective or process writing was used to further therapeutic goals and facilitate psychological, emotional or physical healing.
Expressive writing entails writing about personal experiences in an emotional way. It may contribute to lower symptoms of depression, especially in people who tend to ruminate and to draw on suppression and avoidance of negative thoughts. Rumination – the constant attention to symptoms, their causes and consequences – may increase chances of depressive episodes.
Expressing thoughts and feelings through writing can have cathartic effects, although the mechanisms behind the beneficial health effects are not known. These effects have been illuminated within a number of disciplines, such as literature, psychology and the social sciences.
Within the humanities, focus has been on creativity and the soothing powers of writing. It allows the disclosure of emotions and is linked to personal development. Within the scientific paradigm, focus has been on experiments and attempts at analyzing, predicting and measuring results of therapeutic writing. Physiological, psychological and general health measures have been used as outcome measures.
Professor James W. Pennebaker holds a Ph.D. in psychology and has studied the effects of expressive writing. To explain the mechanism behind expressive writing, the following hypotheses were put forward.
- The inhibition hypothesis refers to the negative health effects of not confiding traumatic experiences. Concealing these experiences demands energy craving inhibitory work. The writing process may help release this pressure.
- The cognitive processing hypothesis entails the beneficial health effects stemming from putting emotional experiences into words. This can help in reorganizing and understanding these experiences.
- The theory of social integration refers to the beneficial effects of being open and honest with others, diminishing the sense of social isolation that comes from concealing traumatic experiences.
Writing may thus help in organizing and understanding complex emotional experiences. This facilitates processing events and leaving them behind.
In Pennebaker’s experiments, the persons using a high number of positive-emotion words and a moderate number of negative-emotion words benefited the most from the writing sessions. They also used an increased amount of cognitive words over time (i.e. think and imagine). Cognition has to do with mental processes such as thinking, perceiving and remembering.
Creating a narrative may help individuals process their reactions to traumatic events. They can organize their thoughts and emotions, and think about the trauma in form of a story created by words. Even if writing may lead to a short-term feeling of discomfort due to the confrontation with traumatic experiences, it may help in the long run.
So why not grab a pen or attack the keyboard and spend the next twenty minutes writing? And have a pretty bracelet around you wrist as a reminder of positive thinking!