Trauma and unexpected situations in life — like a car accident, a life-threatening diagnosis, or a downsizing at work — can all throw you off stride mentally. Expressive writing is expressing in writing form a person’s thoughts and emotions that appear because of traumatic experiences. However, this practice is not the best solution for everyone. It works better for people without any ongoing or severe mental diseases, including major depression.
What Did the Research Show
During one study, 50 students were asked to write about either particular traumatic experiences or any insignificant issues for 15 minutes for four days. The study lasted for six months. Students who described their stressful experiences visited the campus health center and used a pain reliever less often than those students who wrote about insignificant matters.
Many studies have assessed the effect of such a practice on people with asthma, cancer, HIV, etc. According to these studies, this technique initially may upset people but eventually helps them relax.
During one recent study, researchers have assessed if it helps ease stress. According to one study, such a practice reduced stigma-related stress in gay men. One more study showed that it had a good effect on constantly stressed caregivers of older adults. Additionally, stressed test-takers who turned to expressive writing before taking a significant exam earned higher grades than those who did not use this technique.
As a rule, expressive writing involves writing for a specific time amount daily about the traumatic experience. You should write nonstop while exploring your innermost emotions. This method may also be used to realize how the traumatic experience may revive memories of other stressful situations.
Why Does Expressive Writing Help
When researchers just began studying this technique, they assumed that it might help overcome emotional inhibition. They assumed that people who had suppressed stressful memory might become able to move further after expressing their feelings about a traumatic event. However, it is not quite that simple. Instead, there are numerous mechanisms behind this technique.
The act of recalling an experience in memory, and expressing how you feel about it is crucial. Writing helps organize thoughts and provide importance to a stressful experience. Besides, this process may help learn regulate your feelings better. Also, such a practice stimulates an intellectual process — the act of building a story — that helps get rid of the mental cycling more typical to rumination.
Eventually, when you open up privately about something, you more likely to talk with others about it. Therefore, writing may lead to reaching out for social support and healing.
It is also important to mention timing. According to several studies, people who wrote about traumatic experiences right after them felt even worse after expressive writing, possibly because they were not yet ready to face them. Therefore, it is recommended to wait at least a couple of months after traumatic experiences before turning to such a method.
However, this technique is such an easy and low-cost method that it is definitely worth trying.
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