June 02, 2007

Writing For the Health of It

All sorts of scientific evidence is emerging that writing is good for your health, especially the health of your brain and emotions. Sally Balfe reported on a study done by Dr. Robin Philipp showing that creative writing reduced anxiety and helped patients cope with bereavement and depression.

WebMD
reports a number of health benefits from writing, including relieving post-traumatic stress disorder, stronger immune systems, reduced asthma and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

The Oregon Health & Science Center recommends journal writing as one of the ways to retain brain function as we age.

In an eloquent essay, Esther Sternberg, M.D., author of The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions, recommends writing as a way of reconnecting with past emotions and finding your way to a place of healing peace.

University of Texas Professor James Pennebaker, a leading authority on the connection between writing and health, and author of Writing to Heal, offers tips for healthful writing on his website. In his book, he urges people to “write down your deepest feelings about an emotional upheaval in your life for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days.” That simple act, with no further involvement, has strengthened immune systems and improved grades. Continuing the process over a longer period of time strengthens the results.

Debbie Mandel recommends helping Alzheimer’s patients write memoirs. As odd as that may sound, it seems that focusing on what they do remember helps them retain more, and has all the benefits of any memoir writing as far as the rest of the family is concerned. Some researchers are finding that activities, such as creative writing, help stave off the symptoms of dementia.

In Train Your Thoughts, Change Your Brain
, Sharon Begley, science editor of Newsweek, surveys findings of neuroscientists that using our brains to learn new things and form new concepts stimulates the formation of new neurons and synapses throughout our lives. What better way to examine concepts and explore relationships between them than to write about them?

Given all this compelling evidence about the health benefits, aren’t you glad you write? Especially for the health of it!

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal

Countdown: 29 days until the release of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing on July 1. Pre-ordering now available on Amazon.com.

4 comments :

JoJo said...

Today as I read this post, I am taking a short breather from hand writing stories into a book my daughter gave me on her wedding day. That was nearly 7 years ago and for someone who is interested in life stories and memories, it is embarrassing that I have not completed mamy of those pages.

On October 28, 2000, she inscibed, "Mom, I give you this book on my wedding day. You have taught me so much in my lifetime and you continue to teach and amaze me. I want to give you this book so that I can capture all of the stories and wisdom that you possess and hold it close to my heart.

Someday, I wll open this book, and share your stories and wisdom with my children. They will then know what a wonderful mother I had. I only hope that I wll be able to give my children the love and guidance that you have given me in my life. Thank you, Mom. I love you ~ Heidi

I heard my mouth promise I would return it filled to overflowing by her first anniversary. I hope to now have it completed by her upcoming anniversary as her husband will by then be serving in Iraq - the first anniversary they will be apart. While they have never made much of celebrations, I would imagine the one upcoming will have a special significance across the miles and concerns.

Writing the stories today for her eyes and future eyes has taken me back to snowy days by the fireplace as we unwrapped from our icey wet clothes, sipped hot homemade cocoa, and toast with butter.......and Mom ignored the puddles we made on the floor as we defrosted.

Therapy...history...herstory...connections...memories -- all warm and fuzzy between moments of chaos and challenge.

Ritergal said...

JoJo,

What a sweet and moving tribute from your daughter, to request your stories. Please let us know how the book is working for you. Do the questions fit? Are you skipping some and wishing to add others? Perhaps you'll want to add additional stories on separate pages.

Keep us posted!

Tara said...

I can believe this 100%. This past May, I wasn't able to do my usual writing and I definitely saw how quickly not having that release can effect one's well-being.

Ritergal said...

There's nothing like the validation of first-hand experience. A writing habit is hard to break!

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