11 Science-Backed Ways Writing Improves Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Posted 04 Jan 2017, by

Brendan Brown

For many of us, writing is just a practical tool. We use it to communicate our thoughts, ideas, and experiences with other people.  Other times we use it to share information, persuade, or as a creative outlet.

Most of our writing today comes in the form of academic work, emails, and social media posts.  You may think that outside of these uses, writing may not be able to play a role in your life.

However, considerable scientific research is showing that writing has exciting health and wellness benefits too. Writing, as a personal venture (i.e. keeping a journal), not only helps you become smarter and achieve your goals, but can ease what ails you too, whether physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual.

The best part is that you don’t need to be a creative genius or an avid journal writer to benefit from writing, though you will join the ranks of some of the most visionary people who ever walked the planet. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Frida Kahlo, and Leonardo da Vinci all kept journals, writing down their thoughts, ideas, sketches, poems, musings, and jokes. Even more recently, Peter Jennings from ABC News, the comedian Larry David, and Star Wars director George Lucas have all used pocket notebooks to record some of their best ideas when inspiration strikes.

Writing, in whatever form inspires you, has many benefits.  Whether you want a place to write down ideas throughout the day, stories or memories to process or document, or just a place to sketch and write jokes, by keeping a journal you will be stimulating both cognitive and creative skills promoting memory, good mood, gratitude, achievement of goals, and communication, among others.

In the infographic below, we present 11 science-backed reasons why writing is great for your health.

writing benefits infographic

Inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi were the words, “Know thyself.” When a person understands their own thoughts and feelings, it is easier to know oneself, and writing can be the gateway.

Science has shown that writing is not only a way to get ideas across; writing can heal. The process of writing has been found to be beneficial for your mind, body and spirit. From enhancing your immune system to helping along the recovery from trauma, writing sharpens your cognitive facilities, and can  improve memory and unleash repressed feelings. Writing about emotions can result in fewer visits to the doctor, less sick days taken at work, and the reduction in the symptoms of stress such as high blood pressure. Thanks to writing, goals can be achieved, and finding a new job can be easier too.

Writing improves your mind

The better you write, the more effectively you can communicate with others. As such, writing regularly can not only help you understand yourself better, but help you have better relationships with others. Effective communication is a key to having your needs met. One of the best ways to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as self-awareness, is to keep a reflective journal.

A reflective journal is a journal where you can write down your experiences, thoughts, and any negative or positive events you experienced. Because you may want to analyze your experiences later on, it is best to write down your ideas during or shortly after an event.

Reflective journaling may take some practice, but a connection has been shown between having good reflective-writing skills and academic success. Of course,  academic improvement can also be achieved through academic editing to polish a thesis, dissertation, journal article, or essay.

Expressive writing is a writing method that involves writing down your feelings, thoughts, and trauma/upsetting experiences. This type of writing has been shown to be a healing modality. Research has shown that writing about anxiety and worries can improve the working memory, theoretically by decreasing stress. Writing about things that bother you can help you relieve tension. Subjects who wrote expressively were found to have a significant increase in working memory 7 weeks later, in comparison to subjects in the same study who wrote about neutral topics. Expressive writing has been shown, in another study, to boost students’ grade point averages.

Can expressive writing help you find a job faster after job loss, or help you miss less days off work? Yes! Studies have shown that writing down your thoughts, feelings, and traumatic experiences will ultimately provide therapeutic benefits which can help in many facets of your life, even though initially this type of writing can increase stress and negative emotions in the short term.

How writing can heal

How does expressive writing help heal? Writing about emotions and traumatic experiences may help release emotional inhibition. Expressing oneself through writing can help regulate feelings, and to make sense of a traumatic experience. By processing an event in the written form, the endless cycle of rumination can be broken. The acknowledgement and honoring of your thoughts and feelings can have an overall healing effect.

Writing can heal your body too

It is well documented that stress can have a detrimental effect on your body. Because expressive writing can ease stress, depressive symptoms, and trauma, it therefore makes sense that expressive writing can also improve physical health. This is indeed the case. Research has found that study subjects who wrote about traumatic experiences (rather than neutral subjects) showed a higher functioning immune system, improved lung function, and reduced blood pressure.

Athletes often keep a journal as part of their training. This is because writing can keep track of athletic goals, help manage emotions, and to help learn more about oneself. If you have fitness goals to achieve, it may be a good idea to keep a journal as a part of your training.

Writing can heal your spirit

Personal and emotional expression, rather than inhibition, can aid towards healing from traumatic and upsetting experiences. Expressive writing can be the tool to give yourself the permission to acknowledge and face the feelings associated with unpleasant events. Research has shown that people who write about their personal traumatic experiences benefited from improved health, less stress-related visits to the doctor, decreased stress levels, and better mood.

Writing about things that bother you can help you heal from your wounds, but how about journalling about things that you are grateful for? Gratitude journals that keep track of what you are thankful for can elevate your subjective well-being in day to day life. In fact, weekly gratitude journaling has shown to increase optimism, decrease illness, and increase physical activity.

Some people turn the pain from their past into an autobiographical best-seller. If you want to go this route, there is help out there for authors such as book editing, book proofreading, and manuscript evaluation.

Whether you want to heal from traumatic experiences, lead a less stressful and more healthy life, learn about yourself, or experience more optimism and well being, writing is a practical and cost-effective way to do all of that. Give it a try!

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