Writing your way to happiness

‘I don’t know what I think until I read what I wrote.’

writingTo paraphrase Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street (1987): “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that writing, for lack of a better word, is good.” From an article in the New York Times:

The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.

Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.

The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.

It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.

The comments are, in their own way, more interesting than the piece.

Most thought the article was helpful, sometimes amazingly so. More than one correspondent begged folks not to read the personal journals of others. Others suggested the power of the handwritten piece, as opposed to those typed on a word processor.

The Story Alchemy person notes: “The psychologist Carl Jung developed a technique of integrating problematic contents from within the unconscious with consciousness. It’s called Active Imagination. Since this deals with an individual’s internal conflicts, and since story primarily deals with conflict and resolution, it makes sense that when we concentrate on our life story we start to resolve some of the issues that trouble us.”

One fellow wrote: “I write a blog about my experiences fighting oral cancer, and often, fighting the sleights of health and insurance administrators, fighting against marginalization as I can no longer speak, fighting against the infantilizing impulses people have toward terminal cancer patients.”

Someone noted: “An old quote with lots of truth: ‘I don’t know what I think until I read what I wrote.'” This is very true of me.