A 2013 study out of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, of 49 older adults asked half of its participants to write for 20 minutes a day over a two week period about their most traumatic experience. They were asked to be as open as possible about their feelings at the time and, in particular, concerns they had never shared with anyone. The other half of the group was asked to write for the same duration about their plans for the next day, without expressing any emotion.
After two weeks of writing, the researchers performed small skin biopsies under local anesthesia that left wounds on the arms of all the participants. After 11 days, 76 percent of those who had written about their traumatic experiences were completely healed; only 46 percent of the group who had written about their plans were completely healed.
Why you should write
1. Health benefits. Writing can be utilized as a healthy outlet for mind and body recovery in difficult situations, including coping with the symptoms of chronic illness. A calming effect is created when you put words in writing. That effect can cut healing time, minimize getting sicker, and decrease chronic disease symptoms. Writing may also help the body manage stress and anxiety.
2. Connect to others. Starting an online blog to share your emotions and experiences with chronic illness can help you connect with others struggling with similar issues. You can also share advice and ideas that have worked for you and your experience.
Friends and family can offer support, but it is helpful to reach outside your immediate circle. If you are writing about your experiences online, others in similar situations will reach out to you and help you find better ways to cope and feel less isolated. This can also be a great source of emotional support.
3. Help others. Your experience can help others who are dealing with similar struggles as yours. Simply reading your story can help them feel their experiences are not unusual and a part of living with chronic illness, and that they are not alone in their fears and feelings. You may never connect with these people, and they may never reach out to you, but your experience may offer them comfort and good advice for coping and healing.
Journaling for yourself
If the idea of writing about your experiences seems overwhelming, start by jotting down the feelings that you feel are weighing you down in a journal or notebook. Don’t worry about your writing skills. And no one has to read what you write. Anything that helps you get your emotions out will help you move on with your life and decrease anxiety and improve moods.
Tips for writing to heal
It is up to you to decide how you want to put your experiences down on paper. You can either write for yourself or write to be published. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Find time. Finding the time to write is hardest step. You have to actually show up and do the work. Set a time each day to sit down and write.
2. Write for at least 20 minutes. Write for at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted time. Allowing yourself enough quiet time will help you concentrate on your feelings.
3. Don’t worry about form. A writing style is not required; it does not matter whether you write a poem, letter, blog post, or journal entry. Just express your feelings. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are not important either. You don’t even have to worry about editing. Just write until you feel that you have expressed your emotions and felt your emotional pain settling.
4. Write about what matters. Write about the issues that are important to you; for example, what you are worrying about and what you feel is affecting your life in unhealthy ways. Really let go and explore your feelings and thoughts about the things that are upsetting you right now.
5. Deal with what you can handle. As you are writing, let go and search through your deepest feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Sometimes, writing about what you feel may make you feel sad or angry. If you find that you are exceptionally upset about a topic, stop writing or change topics.
6. Do what works for you. Writing about emotional aspects of chronic illness can help improve both physical and mental health. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of ways to write. Think of these as guidelines, rather than factual information. As you write, experiment on your own and see what works best for you.