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Emotional and physical benefits of expressive writing

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Abstract

Writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health, in non-clinical and clinical populations. In the expressive writing paradigm, participants are asked to write about such events for 15-20 minutes on 3-5 occasions. Those who do so generally have significantly better physical and psychological outcomes compared with those who write about neutral topics. Here we present an overview of the expressive writing paradigm, outline populations for which it has been found to be beneficial and discuss possible mechanisms underlying the observed health benefits. In addition, we suggest how expressive writing can be used as a therapeutic tool for survivors of trauma and in psychiatric settings.
... Research has established that expressive writing about emotional autobiographical experiences is therapeutic (Baikie and Wilhelm, 2005;Bryant, Chadwick, and Kluwe, 2011;King, 2004, 2008;Pennebaker and Seagal, 1999;Smyth and Pennebaker, 2009;Turner, 2020). Significant benefits include longer-term physical health outcomes, including improvements in some measures of immune-system functioning, blood pressure, lung and liver function, and fewer visits to the doctor and fewer days in hospital. ...
... Participants with more clinically severe traumas and/or symptoms tend to experience more psychological health benefits (Baikie and Wilhelm, 2005). Studies have shown that expressive writing is more beneficial for males than females, and for those with psychosomatic disorders and borderline disorders (Baikie, 2003, Páez, p. 12 Velasco, andGonzalez, 1999;Smyth, 1998;Solano, et al., 2003). ...
... The nature of the writing is key to the health benefits for a person (Baikie and Wilhelm, 2005;Murray, 2002). Just writing or venting emotions is not necessarily beneficial. ...
Thesis
My autoethnographic research study was an extended piece of personal meaning-making regarding my relationship with my mother in the light of abandonment in four generations of mothers on my maternal line. My research questions were: 1. What is my experience of exploring deep personal pain through Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP)? 2. What changes because of exploring deep personal pain through CWTP? 3. What needs to be put in place to ensure wellness, self-care, and risk management while exploring deep personal pain through CWTP? Methods were journaling and personal writing, unsent letters, photographic ekphrasis writing, and DNA and genograms. Findings, literature review, analysis, and discussion are presented as a braided narrative. My experience was both difficult and satisfying. I experienced a synergy and profound breakthrough in the process of expressive writing, reflection, and research. Practical guidance is presented for non-clinical CWTP practitioners who wish to facilitate CWTP with clients with painful memories. Keywords: autobiographical writing; trauma; mother–daughter relationship; wellness and risk strategy
... Positive psychology has been focusing on the improvement of psychological well-being using expressive writing interventions. Individuals writing on stressful circumstances reflect more on their emotions and have shown improvements in physical and psychological health (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005;Klein & Boals, 2010). In our study, we focused on gratitude letters and self-compassion letters for expressive writing interventions. ...
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INTRODUCTION Extensive research has been conducted on the effect of positive psychological interventions on well-being. The present study explores the effectiveness of brief expressive writing interventions in the context of hopelessness and social connectedness. METHODS The research design of this study was cross-sectional and experimental with independent groups. Non-purposive convenience sampling was used to recruit 300 participants aged 17-60. Based on the writing activity types used in this study, participants were randomly allocated into three groups of 100 people each. They were then required to write a Gratitude letter, SelfCompassion Letter or a Neutral writing activity on ‘The Weather in Dubai’ for a brief duration of 10 minutes. Following the completion of the writing activity, Beck’s Hopelessness Scale and Social Connectedness Scale-Revised questionnaires were then administered to all participants to measure hopelessness and social connectedness. RESULTS One-way ANOVA demonstrated that there exists no significant difference between type of expressive writing interventions on hopelessness scores (F(2, 297) = 1.112, p = .330) and social connectedness scores (F(2, 297) = .131, p = .877. DISCUSSION The non-significant findings may be attributed to the brevity of the writing time provided to the participants, which may not have provided enough time for reflection. Another explanation could be the well-initiated initiative of the UAE government to promote happiness among its residents. Situational variables and dominance of females and South Asian nationalities in the study may also be considered as limitations of this study. Future researchers are advised to replicate this study in a longitudinal format.
... It is also thought that expressive writing allows individuals to engage in cognitive and emotional processing that helps them assign meaning to the event and integrate it into their existing meaning structures (Pennebaker, 1997). Indeed, expressive writing has been linked to positive physical and psychological outcomes such as improved mood, decreased anxiety, depressive and PTSD symptomatology, increased immune function, and decreased frequency and intensity of physical complaints (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005;Kállay, 2015). ...
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Exploring ways to mitigate the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic is important for long-term health. Expressive and gratitude-focused writing are effective methods to help individuals process traumatic or stressful events. Gratitude-focused writing may yield additional benefits because it helps individuals appraise events positively. We hypothesized that an online gratitude writing intervention would yield greater benefits than an expressive writing intervention or control group. Participants were randomized to one of three groups and completed assessments one-week and one-month post-intervention. The gratitude writing group maintained gratitude levels and decreased stress and negative affect at one-month post-intervention. The expressive writing group decreased in gratitude and showed no changes in stress or negative affect at one-month post-intervention. The control group decreased in gratitude and negative affect and showed no changes in stress at one-month post-intervention. Gratitude writing may be a better resource for dealing with stress and negative affect than traditional expressive writing methods under extremely stressful situations with uncertain trajectories.
... Several studies have uncovered the beneficial effects of journaling. For example, Baikie et al. [25] highlighted how expressive writing can be used for therapeutic reasons that have positive impact on physical and psychological health. Similarly, Koschwanez et al. [26] found that journaling could improve wound healing in older adults and women. ...
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Over the years, there has been a global increase in the use of technology to deliver interventions for health and wellness, such as improving peoples mental health and resilience. An example of such technology is the Q-Life app which aims to improve peoples resilience to stress and adverse life events through various coping mechanisms, including journaling. Using a combination of sentiment and thematic analysis, this paper presents the results of analyzing 6023 journal entries from 755 users. We uncover both positive and negative factors that are associated with resilience. First, we apply two lexicon-based and eight machine learning (ML) techniques to classify journal entries into positive or negative sentiment polarity, and then compare the performance of these classifiers to determine the best performing classifier overall. Our results show that Support Vector Machine (SVM) is the best classifier overall, outperforming other ML classifiers and lexicon-based classifiers with a high F1-score of 89.7%. Second, we conduct thematic analysis of negative and positive journal entries to identify themes representing factors associated with resilience either negatively or positively, and to determine various coping mechanisms. Our findings reveal 14 negative themes such as stress, worry, loneliness, lack of motivation, sickness, relationship issues, as well as depression and anxiety. Also, 13 positive themes emerged including self-efficacy, gratitude, socialization, progression, relaxation, and physical activity. Seven (7) coping mechanisms are also identified including time management, quality sleep, and mindfulness. Finally, we reflect on our findings and suggest technological interventions that address the negative factors to promote resilience.
... Writing (vs. not writing) about the death of a loved one, for example, can reduce physician visits, decrease heart rate, and improve immune system functioning (for a review, see Baikie and Wilhelm 2005). One reason is that writing about, and thus deliberating on, such negative events can help individuals organize their thoughts and move beyond their initial emotional reactions (Niederhoffer and Pennebaker 2009;Park, Ayduk, and Kross 2016). ...
Article
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Consumers often communicate their attitudes and opinions with others, and such word of mouth has an important impact on what others think, buy, and do. But might the way consumers communicate their attitudes (i.e., through speaking or writing) shape the attitudes they express? And, as a result, the impact of what they share? While a great deal of research has begun to examine drivers of word of mouth, there has been less attention to how communication modality might shape sharing. Six studies, conducted in the laboratory and field, demonstrate that compared to speaking, writing leads consumers to express less emotional attitudes. The effect is driven by deliberation. Writing offers more time to deliberate about what to say, which reduces emotionality. The studies also demonstrate a downstream consequence of this effect: by shaping the attitudes expressed, the modality consumers communicate through can influence the impact of their communication. This work sheds light on word of mouth, effects of communication modality, and the role of language in communication.
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Chapter
Virtual social connection has become a way of life for many people. The continued implementation of new technologies in social interaction presents an ever-escalating need for researchers and practitioners to understand the implications of mediated interaction and virtual communities on human health and wellbeing. Accordingly, this chapter presents research on the salience of communication and social bonds in relation to human health and wellbeing, explores ways in which individual as well as relational health and wellbeing are affected by the use of social network sites, and argues a case for research on the health-related functions of expressive narratives in virtual settings such as online social networks. Considerations and future directions for research of these issues conclude this chapter.
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