Expressing one’s own feelings and emotions might not be as easy for some people; especially, if they’ve experienced significant trauma. Some people are embarrassed to share those thoughts and moments, or worry about being judged. Others might not want to revisit those memories or feelings, therefore avoiding it and keeping it to themselves. Bottling things up isn’t the healthy route we might think it is. Avoiding isn’t the same as coping. No one wants to feel pain, that’s understandable; however, we need to allow ourselves to heal.

There’s a healthy therapeutic way to express yourself without talking to someone else. Just express your feelings to yourself! Practice expressive writing. Various studies on the healing power of writing have proven it to be highly effective in helping people cope with trauma and psychiatric conditions. If revisiting traumatic situations are challenging, writers can start by expressing the way they feel in the present moment. The main focus is writing about what we think and feel. As we continue to write about feelings, we’ll eventually feel more comfortable to revisit those moments. This is because we’re already healing ourselves as we write about other things. However, a short term challenge is worth the long term results.

 

While writing about traumatic situations can stir up unwanted feelings or memories, it is proven to lead to healthier long term outcomes physically and emotionally. For a particular study, college students practiced expressive writing for 15 minutes on 4 consecutive days focusing on “the most traumatic or upsetting experiences” of their entire lives. It was important they explored their deepest thoughts and emotions relating to the experience. There was no need to pay attention to grammar or sentence structure, just writing whatever came to mind, letting one’s self flow their writing. A controlled group wrote about other superficial topics such as their rooms or shoes, writing with no depth and emotion, being as objective and factual as possible to remain neutral. The only rule was to continue writing until the time was up.

 

Interestingly, those who wrote their deepest thoughts and feelings about traumatic events actually had better physical health 4 months later, with less visits to a doctor or health center. This told researchers that short term arousal through writing about traumatic moments actually healed people, resulting in long term decreased health problems.

 

Here’s a list of health benefits proven by studies on expressive writing:

 

Longer-term benefits...

  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor

  • Improved immune system functioning

  • Reduced blood pressure

  • Improved lung function

  • Improved liver function

  • Fewer days in hospital

  • Improved mood/affect

  • Feeling of greater psychological well-being

  • Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations

  • Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms

 

Social and behavioural outcomes...

  • Reduced absenteeism from work

  • Quicker re-employment after job loss

  • Improved working memory

  • Improved sporting performance

  • Higher student grade point average

  • Altered social and linguistic behaviour

 

Expressive writing is a therapeutic practice that can be done whenever, wherever. If you feel comfortable writing alone in your room, that’s a great place to do it.  Not only does this heal us physically, but a weight is lifted off our shoulders emotionally and mentally. Almost immediately after writing, people feel clearer and lighter. This doesn’t only help us cope with trauma. It also helps to calm our stress, soothe our worries, understand ourselves more deeply, and make sense of our lives. This practice has been helpful for those struggling with addiction. It helps they explore the possible root of their addiction and reasons why they reach for substances.

 

While we recommend giving expressive writing a shot, if you or a loved one could benefit from talking with a trained medical professional, contact Crownview Co-Occurring Institute. A medical professional will arrange a personalized treatment plan to help you live life at its ultimate potential.

 

 

Source: http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338

 
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