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Can Writing Help Your Health?

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Updated October 29, 2009

Question: Can Writing Help Your Health?
As a writer, I might be biased here, but it seems that writing is not only a great brain exercise, but it can also reduce the negative impact of stress on your health.
Answer: Writing, or journaling, can be a super healthy habit. In fact, one man named James Pennebaker made a research career put of studying the effects of writing on health. You can benefit from what he learned and reduce the stress in your life by writing. Not only that, but writing is also a fantastic brain fitness exercise. Here's how to get started:

Writing For Health

In the research studies, Pennebaker asked students, adults, people with illnesses and others to write about a stressful experience for twenty minutes. The idea was to just write and not worry about style, word choice or grammar.

The key is to repeat this exercise for three days in a row (writing for 20 minutes each day). No one, including yourself, needs to ever read what you have written.

Benefits of Writing for Health

What Pennebaker found is that people who write about their stressful experiences tend to have improved health. The effect is not huge -- no one is being cured of disease, but the results are impressive and consistent. I like to think of the data he presents as showing that writing erases some of the negative effects of stress on health.

Writing Away Trauma

These types of exercises are especially good if you have a history of trauma (emotion or physical) in your past. Writing helps your brain/mind "close" the event and move on. Read more about it in this book: Writing to Health by James Pennebaker (can you tell that I am a fan of his work?).
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