Thursday, February 24, 2011

Four Benefits of Expressive Writing

Any experienced journal keeper will tell you that writing makes life better. Now we know that it can also make you healthier. Here are four expressive writing outcomes that serve to reduce stress and produce other life-enhancing benefits.

A calmer mind. We’ve all had times when the same chain of thoughts runs through our head, distracting us from business at hand and more productive considerations. Zen practitioners often refer to this condition as “monkey mind.” The thoughts run on, and on, looping endlessly without much change, causing stress, unhappiness and other ill effects. One of the classic cures for monkey mind is meditation. That could take decades of practice. A simple alternative is to write down the emotions associated with the looping thoughts and images. The combination of labeling and writing will activate the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with voluntary control.

Defuse strong emotions. Many people find great relief in writing when feelings of rage, fear, grief, or confusion threaten to overwhelm them. Conscious awareness of feelings and emotions defuses much of the obsessive thinking and allows the opportunity to make deliberate decisions about how to interpret them and respond.