Writing for Growth
There have been a number of studies now in how writing affects the mind and mood – in all sorts of settings and genres. Poetry classes, writing in prisons, in hospitals and hospices, writing in rehab, bibliotherapy sessions – writing is finally being recognised as a creative therapy, alongside dance, drama, crafts and music.
One significant piece of research in this field was undertaken by psychologist James Pennebaker. He asked a group of people to spend 20 minutes a day writing expressively. By expressive, he meant they had to write about something that evoked an emotional response, usually something traumatic or upsetting. He also had a control group who wrote about things they had no connection to.
The result? Those writing about non-emotional subjects experienced no difference, but those who wrote expressively visited the doctors less – they literally felt better. I’m sure many of us have had the experience of release when we finally express something we’ve been holding on to whether in a screaming match, therapy session or on the page.
When we let go of the things that are holding us back, when we are free to express how we feel, we feel better.