By Rick McVicar
I am returning to Artful Brain Health after taking time to co-author a book with Amelia Willows with the working title, “Healing the Mind with Words.”
Writing with Amelia has been a rewarding experience. I think we both learned firsthand how writing can be beneficial in so many ways. Besides having healing properties, crafting words together has provided for a strong connection between us.
To continue our work, I thought I would relaunch this site with a blog entry about the benefits of writing personal things about yourself. Now I could write from my personal experience. However, I think I will let an expert weigh in on the topic.
In an article about expressive writing, the name given to highly personal writing, New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope writes, “Studies have shown that writing about yourself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders.”
Reducing doctor’s visits and improving memory are also listed as benefits, as well as decreasing cancer symptoms and improving the health of heart attack patients.
The names of a few experts are listed in the Jan. 19, 2015 article, “Writing Your Way to Happiness.” A link to the article is provided on the expressivewriting.org website.
James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, is listed among expressive writing experts. He has been writing books on the subject for the past 30 years.
In an Apple 2017 interview found on YouTube, Pennebaker describes how writing helps to reformulate problems and solutions to make them more manageable. He notes that writers may begin with an idea but then find new ways to imagine life after the writing begins.
As you write, “you realize things you didn’t know,” Pennebaker says in the interview.
Writing leads to the discovery of what is missing in your previous thinking, as well as laying the groundwork for new paths to take. The structure of language forces a writer to develop new ideas and meaning for life, according to Pennebaker.
On a website featuring a PDF by Pennebaker, “Writing to Heal,” the psychology professor offers these tips for expressive writing:
* “Find a place where you won’t be disturbed.”
* “Write continuously for 20 minutes.”
* Do not pay attention to spelling or grammar.
* Write about something deeply personal.
* Write only about situations you can handle at the time of the writing.
Typically, expressive writing is not for an audience and is not edited.
However, in the case off Amelia and myself, those rules are thrown out the window. We both write for an audience, and I am prone to edit. I would argue that editing doubles the effects of expressive writing.
But what do I know? After all, I am no psychology professor. However, both Amelia and I have seen great progress as a result of the writing and editing that goes on between us.