Writing for Wellness
Trauma, illness, and other life crises affect your body, your mind, and your spirit, not to mention your relationships, job, and priorities. As a result, you may feel detached, hyper-vigilant, or easily startled; you may have trouble falling asleep or concentrating; or you wonder if you will ever find a way out of the despair. Many of us have been there. And, fortunately, many have found that hope and healing are possible. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, asserted that “suffering ceases to be suffering … at the moment it finds a meaning.” Indeed, part of the healing work is to find meaning and a reason to go on. Although most would never choose suffering, many people report experiencing growth and strengthening that gives purpose to their pain.
Writing is a Healing Tool
Writing is a tool that can help us move through suffering by first exploring it. It’s a way to let go of painful emotions and memories. Through writing we can search for meaning and explore new identities and pathways to wholeness.
Empirical Benefits of Writing
Many empirical studies have examined the effect of writing on health, revealing a host of benefits for the writer:
- Better physical health
- Fewer doctor visits
- Improved sleep
- Less pain
- Positive mood
- Stronger immune system
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Lower stress hormone levels
- Physical and mental relaxation
- And much more!
Additionally, research has also found that those who wrote about emotional topics experienced better grades, found jobs more quickly, and were absent from work less often compared to those who wrote about superficial topics, or just about the facts of the crisis. In each of the studies, those who wrote about superficial topics, without addressing their feelings, did not experience health benefits. This makes sense because when we suppress our emotions we intensify the experience of pain, setting ourselves up for illness and a difficult recovery. For many, the lasting improvement in their well-being far outweighs any temporary distress from writing about painful topics.
In addition to writing, we will be reading and discussing some select pieces of literature, such as poems and short stories. Reading these pieces will enrich your understanding of your own illness or trauma and provide new perspectives for your recovery process. In fact, these types of exercises have been called Narrative Medicine. Reading other’s writing is also a wonderful catalyst for your own writing.
When everything in your life feels out of control, including your own body, writing can help. It is one thing you still have control over. It is something you can do anytime, anywhere. It is a safe and private outlet.
No writing experience is necessary to experience the benefits.
Are you ready to start?
A 4-week class will be held on 4 consecutive Tuesdays, June 4, 11, 18, & 25, from 12:00pm - 1:00pm at the UMB Campus Center in downtown Baltimore. For details and to register, visit http://www.regonline.com/Wellness-Writing-June-2013.
On-going, drop-in writing classes at Kernan Hospital, UMB's Campus Center, and other locations are being planned. Check back for updates.