Why writing is good for you

It turns out writing down what you’re thinking and feeling can do you a lot of good—and not only if you do it every morning.

Dutch scientific journalist Mark Mieras compiled results from worldwide research on the effects of writing, and published them in his essay, De waarde van schrijven (The value of writing). These results show that people who write down their feelings and experiences don’t visit their doctors as often as those who don’t. Anyone who has a traumatic experience and puts it down on paper, will experience less stress and physical symptoms.

Even writing about everything you still want to accomplish in your life can reduce stress. According to Mieras, it tends to offer women more comfort than men, particularly the worriers who tend to ruminate constantly and have the same things going around in their minds. Writing it down helps us give emotions a name, and organizes our thoughts. It helps us cope with ‘the experiences of life’, as Mieras calls them.

Rhoda Schuling agrees, and as a researcher and mindfulness trainer at the Radboud University Medical Center for Mindfulness in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, she knows about the positive effects of writing. “Between the second and third class of the eight-week basic training course, we have the participants write about their pleasant experiences from that week,” she says, “and then about the unpleasant ones the week after that.

They do this using a couple of questions as a guide: What was the situation?; What went through your mind at the time?; What was happening to your body?; and How do you feel now? By putting it down on paper, people become aware of a few things, like how we often allow nice moments to pass unnoticed. They also learn that you can relive these moments by writing them down, and feel that joy or happiness again. Writing provides insight.”

Text Catelijne Elzes Photography ©Caleb Thal/Stocksy United