The writers that attend a MeetUp I lead in Manhattan vary by age, genre and approach, and aside from a few regulars, is a revolving door of creative word junkies. No matter what we do at our day jobs (some write, some don’t), all of us devour books and regularly pour sentences onto a page in our spare time. No matter our differences, journal writing is something most all of us have in common.
Some of us said they journal to excise demons, others to chronicle their lives or write themselves out of a bad mood. But whatever our walk of life, we all journal, and for most of us, it was our first form of regular writing. Well, it turns out, our natural inclination to frame our thoughts into a narrative is healthy. The power of writing your personal story can lead to positive behavior changes and can help mood disorders. There’s a healing power in writing down your story–and in re-writing it later.
A New York Times article points to several studies, including one at Duke University, that says “writing interventions” can help people become more optimistic. Even though the facts can’t be changed, the narrative can be altered and new meaning inferred.
The book “Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,” by Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the Duke study, said writing can help people cope. “Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,” he said in the Times.
James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, is leading the work on expressive writing. He said in a Washington Post article that the process of labeling an experience and your reaction to it can help you put it into perspective.
Even if you’re not ready to launch a blog or tackle a book, just start writing for the sheer health of it. You never know what you might learn about yourself.