Having taught journal writing workshops for decades it’s apparent to me that very few people are avid journal keepers, including myself. Most of us, however, can do periodic writing to relieve stress, resolve problems and most of all give our brains get an objective view point.
In psychological jargon the “objective observer” actually helps us “reprogram” painful, hurtful, stressful, difficult memories. There are lots of ways to access our “objective observer” – meditation, guided imagery, the arts – and writing is one of the quickest.
Research have shown that writing about negative events or emotions is emotionally therapeutic and can even benefit the immune system. Interestingly other studies have shown that writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.
Here’s a particularly interesting study:
How Writing About Past Failures May Help You Succeed In The Present
by Alice G. Walton
“They say failure is a necessary part of success, but it doesn’t always feel that way. A new study in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience not only supports this connection but adds an interesting twist, finding that reflecting on past failures—by writing about them—may help us stay calm in the face of new stressors. The team found this in the lab, but based on past evidence, it likely applies to real life, too.”
“The researchers, from Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania and Duke University, had people come into the lab and write for 10 minutes about either a time they’d made mistakes or failed at something in the past, or about an unrelated topic (a movie they’d recently seen). The team predicted that writing about a past failure would actually reduce a person’s stress level during a stressful situation in the present, whereas writing about the random topic wouldn’t have any effect.”
“To stress the participants, they subjected them to a well-known Trier Social Stress Test, in which participants have just a few minutes to prepare a five-minute speech, which they have to deliver in front of the researchers, or in this case a researcher posing as a “speech expert.” If that weren’t enough, the participants then had to count backwards by 13 from 2063. Finally, participants carried out a straightforward test of attention and reaction time.”
“As the team predicted, people who’d written about a past failure didn’t show the typical stress response (measured by the stress hormone cortisol) to the stress test, compared to the control group, who’d written about movie plots. They also did better on the tests of attention, making fewer mistakes, and ending with higher scores on average.”
“Because the control group still wrote, but about an unemotional topic, the authors conclude that it’s not just the writing, but the reflecting on earlier failure, that seems to have the stress-reducing effects.”
“We didn’t find that writing itself had a direct relationship on the body’s stress responses,” says study author Brynne DiMenichi in a statement. “Instead, our results suggest that, in a future stressful situation, having previously written about a past failure causes the body’s stress response to look more similar to someone who isn’t exposed to stress at all.”
Check out an easy tutorial on writing. Click HERE