Do You Write? Here Is Why Writing Is Therapeutic

Expressive Writing

Expressive Writing has captured researchers’ attention since the 80s. Today, there is plenty of evidence of the effects of writing on health and well-being.

Studies have shown that the impact of writing can last for weeks, months, and even years. However, not all kind of writing generates the same effect.

A writing session of 15 minutes can bring you benefits that last for days, weeks, or even months

Writing about emotional events seems to benefit health and well-being the most. A session of 15 to 20 minutes for three or four days can positively affect your physical and mental health.

Expressive writing has been used as a therapeutic tool. Especially so in cases of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. It provides us with a way to tell our story and build a more coherent narrative.

Those who write about their life struggles and difficult emotions have a greater chance of confronting their thoughts and feelings. That alone can be a big step toward healing and greater health.

When we write about what bothers us, we can build a bridge between our mind and body. We can notice the thoughts that come to mind and describe what we feel in the body.

In this day and age, it is very common to find people who are solely living in their heads. They have no sense of connection to their bodies. As a result, it is easy to dismiss the psychological layer of our health problems.

Writing can thus be an effective solution to this problem. It offers us a space to let conflicts emerge and breathe. We can only address them properly when they come into our conscious awareness.

How Does Expressive Writing Work?

Expressive writing facilitates emotion regulation

Before knowing anything about ourselves through, we have to gather the courage to step into the unknown. That’s how it feels like when we decide to embrace a blank page.

A blank page can be daunting, but it can also be a source of thrill and excitement. That’s where being curious comes in handy. Approaching writing as a curious experiment helps. It is as if it was an inquiry process led by a child.

The next step is to let our fingertips be the translator for our minds and heart. The translator does not interpret or change the message. As such, you must allow yourself to be relaxed and free from judgment. Let your fingertips do their magic.

Some of the mechanisms that explain the benefits of writing for health and well-being

After this stage, it’s time to connect with your piece of writing. This requires you to remain curious and open. It also invites you to be receptive. This is the step in which you can identify patterns, words or expressions that spark meaning.

The following step is to work through the meaning you retrieved from your writing. Sometimes this looks like instant insights or solutions. Other times, this looks like new questions that need further exploration.

The Benefits of Writing

If we look into the research, we can learn about the different positive outcomes of writing. Studies have shown positive effects on human biology, psychology, and behaviour.

However, these effects seem to be generated by one process in particular. Across studies, we find that writing aids emotional regulation. The quality of this process can lead either to wellness or illness.

We may say that expressive writing can be therapeutic through emotional regulation. Its positive impact generates positive biological, psychological, and behavioural effects.

Let’s have a look at some of these effects.

Biological Effects

Studies have shown that people who attended expressive writing sessions listed the doctor less often. This suggests that writing may be an immune protective factor.

Research has also presented enough evidence that writing improves different health issues. Studies suggest that expressive writing is linked to:

  • improved lung function
  • improved joint mobility
  • increased white blood cell counts
  • decreased overall pain
  • reduced fatigue
  • lowered blood pressure

Psychological Effects

Writing can help us identify, label, and make sense of both emotions and life experiences. This contributes a great deal to how well we can regulate and manage our emotions.

People’s moods may vary after a writing session. When people write about upsetting experiences, it is natural for them to feel sad afterwards.

However, data suggests the positive consequences of writing outweigh the negatives. Mood tends to improve and stabilise at a healthier baseline in the long run.

Studies have also shown that writing can free working memory. This helps us deal with our inner and outer reality more effectively.

Behavioural Effects

Since writing facilitates emotional regulation, it also impacts our actions and performance. A study done with students showed that writing before an exam improved their test scores.

This can also be seen and felt within our social life. Being in touch with our emotions can make us more communicative.

There is evidence that writing reduces anger and hostile behaviours. This can be a promising point of social intervention. We can bring different groups and communities closer through writing.

Final Thoughts

When I started this blog, my type of writing was expressive writing. At that time, I was dealing with a deep sense of disconnection. I was disconnected from myself and what made me feel alive.

That disconnection prevented me from bonding with others on a deeper level. There were times it was like I couldn’t feel anything at all or see the meaning. 

When I started writing about what was happening, I experienced relief. Situations and emotions became clearer. I could have a better grasp of what was going on.

Writing has always been my primary channel of self-expression. It is also my preferred way of processing. There were many times in which I only understood my feelings and thoughts after writing them down. 

Sometimes the process seems to work like magic. I may not exactly know what I’m going to write. Once I let my heart and mind speak freely though, I always gain a renewed sense of being. That’s how powerful writing can be.

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29 Comments

  1. Rachel says:

    I wasn’t sure what expressive writing was till I read this post.
    I think I’ll try it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad this shed some light on it, Rachel. Thank you for the feedback.

      Like

  2. thestoicpadawan says:

    This post resonated deep from within, especially the last paragraph. Ever since I started writing, I felt my mind become more organized and clearer. It improved my confidence in myself and my expression to the world. I have noticed that it is important for me to publish my work because it requires me to think about it on a deeper level. Making sure that what I right is true and reflects my beliefs. I was surprised by the biological effects, which I never really thought of. Thank you for sharing this great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective, Benny. It’s nice to know you found resonance in it and I agree, sharing unlocks deeper layers of analysis sometimes.

      Like

  3. Hilary Tan says:

    I loved reading your blog post about writing being therapeutic. I agree that it’s good for one’s mental health. There’s something very cathartic about it. I am able to express things that I simply cannot do by bottling up feelings to myself. In terms of blogging, I think of writing as releasing these feelings into the universe, similar opening a jar and letting these butterflies fly away 🦋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Hilary. I loved the way you described blogging. Sometimes wonderful things return to us.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I myself is a living testimony of how therapeutic writing can be. It is my way of communicating with myself and knowing what I think and feel. Honestly speaking, I cannot not write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can relate to that 100%. If I go without writing for myself too long, life can become pretty chaotic 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  5. (Kitty) Cat Strawberry - Meow! says:

    I have quite a bit of what I called dark or depressive poetry on my blog. Every time I’ve felt sad or depressed I’ve written these darker poems. Iddly, even though they might be about dark topics like abuse and death, I find myself feeling lighter for having written it, and I’ve often had people comment on how much they enjoy those poems. Not sure if that’s expresive writing or not but it works for me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It surely sounds like expressive writing. There is great courage and beauty in sharing those poems, I will have to dig into your blog to read them 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Karalee says:

    Thank you for sharing about expressive writing and its benefits. I have done expressive writing in the past when I went through situations I didn’t know how to process. Writing did help me understand my emotions and enable me to move forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to know, Karalee, thank you for sharing your experience with expressive writing. I’m glad it helped you process and gain clarity about what was going on and where you needed to go from there ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  7. zacthrav says:

    What a wonderful post, so positive. I find that writing is my outlet, and whenever I am feeling down or unwell, I just take a blank piece of paper and write stuff. I think the problem is that some think everything should be a masterpiece, but that is the illusion of the world, writing is expression for you only. We don’t need to publish everything. Free expression is one thing this world is missing, everything is documented and placed somewhere. Buy a notebook and let your mind free. It is definitely worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Zac. Your comment is such a great addition. I wholeheartedly agree with you.

      Like

  8. The benefits of writing are amazing; I have definitely found that it has been a very helpful (and supportive) outlet for me personally so it was fascinating to read more about why this is. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad writing has had such a positive impact on you, Molly. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Like

  9. PineCanvas says:

    I have always enjoyed writing and your posts about these benefits have been really enlightening why it feels do good. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad writing feels good to you. It’s fascinating to learn the link between mind and body through writing.

      Like

  10. fourtickets says:

    I’ve just started writing and I never realized how helpful it could actually be. Great read, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m so happy for you. I wish you a wonderful writing journey.

      Like

  11. Charity says:

    I love to write too. It is very therapeutic I think as well! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really awesome to know, I’m so happy writing is also therapeutic to you too.

      Like

  12. Sometimes I find myself running from my own feelings and thoughts. There are I just want to put behind me without having to deal with them ever. I don’t want to confront those things and sometimes I feel like if i write them down I’d be putting myself through past pain. So I run.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry you feel that way about writing and emotions. I can relate as I tend to run away from my emotions too. Sometimes it’s not the right time for us to dig them but eventually, we must if we want to heal and become whole again. Sending you love and courage. Thank you for sharing your experience, I really appreciate your authenticity.

      Like

  13. I hadn’t realised how therapeutic writing was until I started. It is very cathartic. Always enjoy your posts Vanessa! Thank you. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Emma, I’m so glad you enjoy these benefits of writing too. Thank you for sharing your experience, I really appreciate it x

      Liked by 1 person

  14. AmethystAP says:

    Writing is such a powerful tool. This post deeply resonates as I’ve experienced many of the benefits of writing especially connecting more with myself and emotions. It’s like when you sit in front of a blank page and begin to write, the page acts as a mirror reflecting yourself back to you allowing you to see things a bit more clearly. It’s a beautiful thing, even when it’s uncomfortable. Thanks for sharing this with post. Loved your Benefits of Expressive Writing workshop, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you experience these benefits too, even when it’s uncomfortable like you said. You described it perfectly. Thank you for sharing your experience and feedback, I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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