Write this Way | The Powerful Benefits of Writing

While reading a book about the many ways to treat trauma, I was reminded of the positive and powerful benefits of writing.  I encourage many of my clients to give writing a try.  In addition to being a helpful coping method, research suggests that expressive writing may also offer physical benefits.  One psychologist at the forefront of this research, James Pennebaker, PhD, recently co-authored a book titled Opening up by writing it down: How expressive writing improves health and eases emotional pain.  In this book, Pennebaker states that writing about one’s emotions can boost immune function.  How could this be?  Similar to the research on talk therapy, there is an abundance of evidence that supports releasing the negative emotions associated with stress and trauma.  Attempts at burying such feelings typically result in a variety of negative symptoms including, but not limited to, physical symptoms such as pain and an increase in illness.

Writing can be a great way to “vent”, but in order to reap the greatest fruits of your labor, psychologist Joshua Smyth, PhD, emphasizes the importance of using writing to better understand and learn from one’s emotions.  Ideally, writing will help you make meaning of a stressful event or at least discover if there are any positive aspects related thereto.

Does writing feel foreign and uncomfortable?  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Some people are inspired by writing in a pretty journal while others prefer to type.  Find a comfortable place and familiar medium to do your writing.
  • Take a deep breath and try to relax.  No one needs to read what you are writing unless you want them to.  This is not something you are being graded on or judged for.
  • Think about what would be helpful to write about now.  What thoughts or feelings are bothering you?
  • Be honest.  Give yourself permission to tell your truth and feel your feelings exactly as they are without filters.


Written by Alexis Anttila, MA LAMFT

Photo Source: unsplash.com