For those of us who write, we often feel a psychological or emotional release after writing, especially if we've tackled a difficult subject. It turns out this emotional release may work on an even deeper level. According to a new study
from New Zealand, expressive writing helps wounds heal more quickly in older adults, a group prone to injuries.
The study, led by the University of Auckland's Elizabeth Broadbent, worked with 49 healthy adults ages 64 to 97. All the participants were asked to write for 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days. Half were asked to write about the most traumatic/upsetting experience in their life, delving into their deepest thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the event, ideally not previously shared with others. The others were asked to write about their daily activities for tomorrow, without mentioning emotions, opinions or beliefs.
Then, all participants received a standard skin biopsy, and the resultant wounds were photographed and monitored over the next 11 days. On the 11th day after the biopsy, the wounds were completely healed on 76.2 percent of those who had done the expressive writing. That was true of only 42.1 percent of those who had written about everyday activities.
Interestingly, the participants who wrote expressively did not report lower levels of stress or a feeling of better emotional well-being. It seems that even though they were not consciously aware of feeling more relaxed, the expressive writing had triggered something in their bodies which significantly sped up their healing time.
Though it cannot always be scientifically explained, there is a strong connection between mental and physical well-being. By healing, or at least dealing with, an emotional wound through writing, these study participants were able to prompt their body's physical healing response, proving, if nothing else, the incredible capabilities of the human mind and body for healing.
Image by jjpacres, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.