As in “Writing To Wellness”?
A zillion posts ago I promised to explain why writing is beneficial to one’s health, and specifically for weight loss. Since the mid 1980’s, James Pennebaker has demonstrated repeatedly how expressive writing helps different types of people get past traumatic events – everything from grief to rape to losing a job. (Check out his website for a quick introduction on how to do this along with plenty of references.) Pennebaker has found actual biological markers of health improvement, along with objective evidence such as decreased visits for medical care (and I include finding re-employment to be a health benefit!) It is important to note that this type of writing is NOT journaling or goal setting but rather writing expressively about a stressful event. Most blogs, including mine, rarely include truly expressive writing – and for good reason given the open format of the Internet.
Perhaps because writing is so universal, and academicians are forced to write incessantly, other researchers began looking at different types of writing. Narrating one’s goals has been studied by many investigators who have found that delineating goals for one’s self in terms of performance (sound familiar, fellow bloggers?) improved future results and improved feelings of well-being and demonstrated health benefits.
Those of you familiar with Julia Cameron’s work on creative writing might know that she has published a book on writing as an adjunct to weight loss. So now the commercial appeal of writing for behavior change is kicking in. (I am not endorsing her book as I haven’t read it.)
Bottom line is this:
1. I know from my reading of high quality, psychology research that certain types of writing improve health. There is no doubt that brief, directed writing about stressful events works. (Please read Pennebaker’s website on how to do this. I also recommend his 2004 book Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval.)
2. Goal directed writing can help lead to successful behavior change and can improve health. I don’t have practical resources for the best ways to do this except to be as specific in your behavioral goals as possible Notice I did not say a weight loss goal or an exercise event goal – rather write the behaviors that will lead to your weight loss and your desired level of fitness. Hey, you might not make the Ironman lottery next year!
Now, I need to go do some expressive writing of my own about Mattie’s death. /cry