Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Research, Writing and Wellbeing

In 1986 Dr James Pennebaker conducted research into expressive writing and health. He asked two groups of uni students to write for 15 minutes a day on four consecutive days. One group were asked to write about superficial things - what they were wearing, the weather etc. The other group were asked to write their deepest thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event they'd experienced (preferably a secret they hadn't revealed before). 

Pennebaker looked at the students' visits to the health centre in the months before and after and found that the group who wrote about a traumatic event went to the doctor half as many times as the students who wrote about superficial things. 

Over the last thirty years research has consistently shown health and wellbeing benefits not only from expressive writing but other types of writing including free writing, creative writing, short stories, song writing, unsent letters and memoirs.  

Currently, Lapidus members Victoria Field and Carol Ross are involved in a study which aims to establish the clinical and cost effectiveness of therapeutic writing for people with long term health conditions. 

James Pennebaker's top tips for expressive writing
  • Ask yourself if you need to write. If you find yourself thinking about something too much, dreaming about it or obsessing about it in some way, writing could be beneficial.
  • Promise yourself you'll write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for three or four days.
  • Don't worry about spelling.
  • Write for yourself, not for an audience: this is not a letter to someone, this is for you.
  • Plan on destroying what you've written, though whether or not you actually do doesn't matter.