Write your way to happiness

Write your way to happiness

Did you know…that regular expressive writing about distressing events can boost your happiness, health and productivity in the long term? Well it can! James Pennebaker and colleagues have conducted numerous studies over several decades now and repeatedly found that although writing about trauma is uncomfortable in the short run, after approximately two weeks, the costs disappear and the benefits emerge; and they last. Pennebaker's team has demonstrated physical and mental health benefits of emotionally expressive writing with arthritis and chronic pain patients, medical students, maximum security prisoners, crime victims, and women after childbirth, from Belgium to Mexico to New Zealand. They've found decreases in depression, anxiety, anger, and distress. They've shown that writing about stressful experiences also reduces absenteeism from work among employees; and increases grade point averages among students. They've even found that emotionally expressive writing has objective immune system benefits. After writing about traumas, people show higher t-cell growth, better liver function, and stronger antibody responses to hepatitis B vaccinations and Epstein-Barr virus. If you're interested, you can read more HERE. Further, if you'd like to learn how to apply this in your life just keep reading below.

This week's challenge…

Following on from the research summary above, we challenge you (this week) to try the following:

  • Firstly, make a commitment to spend about 15-20 minutes writing each day, for the next 3-4 days

  • Once you start writing, don't stop. Don't worry about spelling or grammar; just keep writing continuously for 20 minutes or so

  • Over the next 4 nights write about…

  1. something you've been worrying a lot about

  2. something you've been dreaming about

  3. something you feel is having a negative or unhealthy impact on your life

  4. and something you've been avoiding

That's about it. As noted above, it's worth being prepared that in the short term you might experience some increased distress BUT if you stick it out and complete the exercise then you will almost certainly enjoy significant benefits in the long term.

And as we've done in the last few weeks we've also loaded this up to the InvivoPlay website. You can accept this week's challenge HERE and/or subscribe to get all of Dr. Happy's challenges HERE (and note…they're all FREE!).

PS: if you do struggle with increased distress and need some help then please get in touch with us here at The Happiness Institute, talk to a friend or consult your local doctor or psychologist.