How Can Writing Be Therapeutic?
It’s no secret that getting out your worries, fears and dreams can make you feel better. For those that have no one to talk to, or for those that just like to put their ideas on the page, writing can be helpful. For more about therapeutic writing, I contacted Beth Carvin, CEO of JamBios. Here is what she had to share.
What Does Therapeutic Writing Do?
Expressive writing is an acknowledged therapy with 200+ academic research studies scientifically proving results. Some of these are astonishing such as:
- improving the immune function by increasing white blood cells
- having fewer doctor visits for flu and upper respiratory conditions than those who wrote about ordinary events
- reduced work/task errors
- increased GPA of students
- improved lung function in asthmatics
- reduced irritable bowel symptoms
- lessened the distress of migraines
- increased rate of unemployed being hired
and of course, reduction of stress and anxiety and improved social relations and life enjoyment.
As you can see, these kinds of benefits can help a wide range of people. Most of us, even the happiest, have some emotional events in our past that we may not have completely worked through, even if we don't know it.
How Does it Work?
There are a variety of theories on why expressive writing works so well. Some researchers believe that it turns those painful life events from a sensory experience into a concrete narrative that our brains can then set aside. You can think of past painful experiences as being like a cloud or vapor that is always floating around our brains with no way for us to let them go.
They interfere with our working memory, the part of the brain that helps us perform tasks. Researchers believe that the language and structure of writing turn the untenable into something solid that can be stored appropriately. Once properly placed, these memories no longer use up our unconscious processing power.
How JamBios Can Make Writing Easier
The JamBios platform was developed for writing, sharing and saving life memories.
We've been surprised at how many people come to JamBios while dealing with various traumas, stress and illness. One user, Sunshine, came to JamBios while dealing with severe kidney disease. She would write stories about her life for her children while on the dialysis machines. (She has since received a kidney transplant and continues to write her memories.) Another, Sue, has written about past drug abuse and how she escaped from a low point in her life. She told us that in writing and sharing her stories it released her from the shame she had tucked away. We've had users writing about memory loss from traumatic brain injury, about severe depression and about simply not fitting in.
You can also magnify the positive benefits by sharing your personal writing with others. Whether you do so publicly or just with close family or friends, it further lifts the burden. The woman mentioned above who shared her writing on her past drug abuse stories was astonished at how much love and support she received. Even from her mother who did not know the extent of her journey.
But Writing is Not Just for People With Great Trauma
Many of us, myself included, find it stress reducing to write about our enjoyable memories from our past. When the news on television, in the newspapers and social media get to be overwhelming, it's a refreshing break to take 10 or 20 minutes to write and reminisce. After writing about my favorite first pet, or meeting my husband for the first time, or my (mis)adventures with skiing I always feel recharged and energized. Plus I get a burst of positive emotions when my sister contributes a memory to my story that I have forgotten or never new.
While writing does not replace other necessary treatments, it's a wonderful way to help ease mental burdens both large and small. It's free, it's fun and it is drug free.