In my previous post I touched on Expressive Writing as a way of dealing with post-election stress. I need to expand on that. Writing for stress relief takes more than one form, and spontaneous writing in real time is best known as journaling.
I can attest from personal experience that journaling my heart out has been hugely helpful in coming to grips with anger, confusion, and other chaotic emotions. I highly recommend it, and if your topic is a tender one that could cause the chaos to spread of others near and dear to you happened to read it, write it into the fireplace, or the shredder, or delete the file.
As great and powerful as journaling is, I’m not aware of any studies showing that it has long-term health benefits. Nor is it reliably useful for calming currently chaotic emotion.
In Pennebaker’s original research, people were asked to write about “a trauma, emotional upheaval, or unsettling event that has been influencing your life, spinning obsessively in your mind, and maybe keeping you awake at night” for twenty minutes on each of four consecutive days.
Subsequent studies have found similar results by having people write for as little as five minutes. They have scaled the four days back to one or two. They’ve left it consecutive and spread it out. Research in other directions sheds even more light.
Almost without exception, results showed durable health benefits. In the case of the tech workers, the ones who wrote according to the experimental protocol found new jobs significantly sooner faster than the control group.
So in concert with what I posted last week, I urge you to journal about current fears and frustration. In a few months or more, if it’s still troubling you, switch to the Pennebaker Process. Meanwhile, if journaling current stuff triggers traumatic old memories, do the four day routine with them now.
In fact, most readers here are writing lifestories anyway. Part of the healing value of expressive writing is the way it turns endless rumination loops into coherent story with context and meaning. So take this process one step further and turn the results of those 20 minute sessions into a coherent, meaningful story worthy of passing along.
Write for the health of it!
Image credit: Prawny, posted on https://morguefile.com/creative/Prawny