People in recovery usually have no problem accepting that they need to talk to a counselor or therapist and go to meetings.
We all realize that talking out our problems and past hurts can help the healing process. Writing has often been a part of therapy; clients may be given questionnaires to fill out, or asked to keep journals to help them get through their past traumas. A major part of the twelve-step program involves writing about oneself, and for good reason. Many studies point to the overall therapeutic benefits of writing, and new research shows that writing can heal not only emotional hurt but also physical hurt.
A study featured in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology claims that writing does make a difference, and the type of writing one does is what matters. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in which 171 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients wrote for twenty minutes for three consecutive days. One hundred of them wrote about neutral subjects, like their daily plans, and 71 wrote about the most stressful events of their lives. Four months after the writing exercise, 70 out of the 71 in the stressful writing group showed improvement on clinical evaluations, compared to 37 of the other hundred. The study also found that those who wrote about stress improved more and deteriorated less, in both diseases.
In other expressive writing studies, in which some participants were asked to write about upsetting or traumatic experiences while control groups wrote about superficial subjects, “participants who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings reported significant benefits in both objectively assessed and self-reported physical health four months later, with less frequent visits to the health care centers and a trend towards fewer days out of work owing to illness. The authors concluded that: Writing about earlier traumatic experience was associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems.”
If you would like to try expressive writing, this is how it works:
Write for a certain amount of time (usually at least 15-20 minutes) about the deepest hurts, traumas or emotional issues that have affected your life. There are only two rules. The first rule is to write without stopping. Don’t stop to question what you want to say or whether you’re writing the “right” thing. The other rule is to write about something that has deeply affected your life. This exercise should be done every day for at least 4-5 days. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or how your writing looks to others. You don’t have to show it to anyone. You can write about the same issue every day or choose a different topic each day. If you have a counselor, you may want to talk about your writing with that person.
The immediate effects of this exercise are:
- Short-term increase in distress
- Decrease in positive mood
- Negative physical feelings (headaches, stomachaches)
It’s natural that writing about difficult experiences will cause some distress. If you can sit with that distress without getting anxious about it, the long-term benefits of this exercise will start to take effect.
Some of the long-term benefits of this exercise are as follows:
- Improved immune system functioning
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved mood
- Fewer visits to the doctor
- Feelings of greater psychological well-being
- Reduced days missed from work
- Quicker re-employment after job loss
- Higher grade point average in students
- Improvement in memory
- Improved social and linguistic behavior
Expressive writing can benefit people struggling with addiction because it gets to the root causes.
This type of writing has a cathartic effect, allowing the writer to bring to light the negative emotions and feelings that may have been bottled up for a very long time. Negative feelings, traumatic experiences, and other highly emotional experiences, when not processed, can affect physical health as well. Diseases such as high blood pressure, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and drug/alcohol addiction are among just a few of the ailments that can be helped through writing. If you want to help yourself, or someone else, write on!
Are you looking for addiction treatment? Contact us today at (877) 958-0778 and find out more about our Monroe drug rehabs. Recovery is possible, and the professionals at Twin Lakes Recovery Center can get you on the right path.