Writing and Health: Part 1

I’m proud to introduce Dr. Terri Wenner, a friend and new blogger & podcaster, as the first ever guest blogger here on my site. With 25 years of nursing and 10 as a nurse educator under her belt, she’s using her considerable knowledge base to help others live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle, and overcome health barriers.

To this end, I’ve asked her to write a bit about writing and health, and since then have come to the conclusion there is much to stay on this topic, and will subsequently do more blogging about it, which is why this is part one. However, Terri’s got us of to a wonderful start with her work below on the connection between writing and general health.

 

Seven Reasons Why You Should Start Writing More Today 

When you hear the word “writing,” what do you think of?  Do you immediately start to daydream about sitting in your favorite chair with a journal and a pen?  Or do you have flashbacks to the dreaded writing assignments you had to complete in school?  Regardless of your previous experience with writing, I want you to consider seven great reasons why you should write more often, and why you should start today!

 

A photo by Aaron Burden. unsplash.com/photos/xG8IQMqMITM
Photo by Aaron Burden at unslpash.com/@aaronburden

 

Research supports the many benefits of writing down our thoughts in both private and public ways.  Baikie and Wilhelm (2005) found that expressive writing about traumatic or very stressful events could improve both physical and psychological health.  Chan (2013) reported that writing might help you focus on positive things, be more grateful, and even sleep better.  Additionally, Saez (2016) noted that writing increases clarity and productivity. We do have to careful to make sure our written expression ends up in the right hands, but otherwise, let’s focus on how writing more can improve your life.

1. Purging

Whether good or bad, when our minds are filled with thoughts they keep us occupied. We can rehash situations that were upsetting.  We can run and rerun scenarios of how a different result might have been possible.  Ciotti (2016) noted that when we have too many ideas floating around in our heads, it’s like having too many internet tabs open and becomes overwhelming.

Getting your thoughts onto paper allows you to put them in a safe place and frees up space in your mind.  You can always retrieve those thoughts later if needed.  But often you feel much better after getting them out and don’t need them anymore.

2. Pleasure

Some types of writing are intended for more personal or private use such as journaling. Young girls often call it a diary where they list the day’s events or dreams for the future.  Adults can benefit from such activities as well.  You could start a gratitude or blessings journal.  On the other hand, you could write about your troubles and keep track of how each one of them eventually worked out.

Perhaps you are someone who enjoys the outdoors.  You could choose to describe the beauty of the changing seasons or even the fragrances in the air.  Another option would be write poetry, songs, or creative phrases.  Whatever brings you joy and provides you pleasure is fair game!

3. Perspective

No two people think or act exactly the same way all the time. We are each unique compilations or our genetic makeup combined with our life experiences.  So much has happened to and around us that it has shaped our viewpoints and how we feel about things.

When you choose to write your thoughts and perspectives down, it gives others the opportunity to expand their thinking.  Not everyone will always agree with your point of view, but it always enriches our lives to learn from others and listen to what others are thinking.  No matter what you are thinking, it deserves to be heard by others.  The only way that can happen is if you bother to write it down.

4. Productivity

This type of writing may not be as glamorous as the others are, but it serves a very useful purpose. I have always been a big “list person.”  I regularly keep an excel spreadsheet of things that need to be done.  Otherwise, I’m likely to forget or miss important deadlines.  Additionally, once an item is on the list, I can clearly see in front of me what I have determined is important enough to make it to the list.

Some of the items are essentials like paying the bills.  But others are things that I have decided to make a priority, like encouraging a friend who is going through a tough time.  Regardless of how high or low a priority an item is, I am much less likely to forget it or get it done late if I have it on the list and have given it a priority on a particular day of the week.

5. Potential

In addition to our young dreamers writing whom they want to marry in their diaries, we can all benefit from setting goals and dreaming a little more.  My husband and I are entering a phase of life where we hope to begin traveling more.  We’ve always tried to spend wisely and extravagant vacations were not always in the budget.  Now that our children are grown, this is a new priority for us.

I haven’t yet made a list because idealistically I want to see everything in the world.
But realistically, none of us can predict the future and we don’t really know how many trips we will get to take.  I think I will start with a top ten list and make them different enough that I will feel like I got a nice variety no matter how long or short my travel itinerary is when all is said and done.  What type of dreams do you have that you willing to write down?

6. Promises

Sometimes we make promises to ourselves because we know something is in our best interest but extenuating factors prevent us from taking action now. This is a perfect time to put it in writing.  Much like verbal promises that you want to make sure you get it in writing during a job interview, promises to yourself are equally as important.  It’s easy to lose track of rewards we promise ourselves or that will bring personal benefits, so write them down so they’re not forgotten.

Other times we may have made someone else (children, spouse, best friend, employee) a promise that we also need to keep in the forefront of our minds.  It’s not that we care so little that we forget, or we want to shortchange anyone.  However, the busyness of life and frequent interruptions can interfere with even the best minds.  In these cases, write the promise down so you don’t forget.

7. Posterity
The last but certainly not least benefit of writing more is to leave something for future generations. There is a two-fold purpose to writing for future generations. First, our writings can benefit our own descendants and society as a whole.  How many history books or novels did you read in school that were written many years ago, but still brought value to the class you were taking at the time?

The second benefit of writing for posterity is for the writer to be able to share wisdom and expertise in a way that shows their personal value.  Each of our lives has great value, but unless it is recorded in some way, future generations may miss out on the wonderful insights and blessings of the life you lived.

The Benefits are Worth It

Write more.
Write now.
Write tomorrow.
Write the day after that.
It’s the right thing to do!

 

References

Baikie, K.A. & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11 (5) 338-346. DOI: 10.1192/apt.11.5.338

Chan, A. L. (2013).  Six unexpected ways writing can transform your health. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/12/writing-health-benefits-journal_n_4242456.html

 

Ciotti, G. (2016).  The psychological benefits of writing. Help Scout. https://www.helpscout.net/blog/benefits-of-writing/

 

Saez, F. (2016). Ten benefits that writing gives you. FacileThings Blog. https://facilethings.com/blog/en/benefits-of-writing

 

 

If you enjoyed this guest blog, and would like to see more, please do let me know, and check out Terri’s site at drterriwenner.com for more encouraging posts and her engaging podcasts.

In later writing and health posts, we’ll take a look at some topics like how writing is used by mental health professionals and ways in which creative writing in particular intersects with health.

 

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