An Exercise That Decreases Stress

I recently read about a study where 46 college students at the University of Texas, Austin, were asked to write about life events for 15 minutes for four consecutive days. Some were told to do expressive writing and others to write about trivial matters.

In the six months following, the students who wrote about their stressors and traumas took fewer pain relievers and visited the health center less frequently than those who wrote about trivial subjects.

Similar studies have recorded physical benefits for conditions including sleep apnea, asthma, migraines, HIV, and cancer.

In addition, expressive writing has been found to lower stress and anxiety. A recent University of Chicago study found anxious test-takers received better grades on an important exam when they wrote about their feelings before the test, compared to their peers who did not write beforehand.

Therefore, finding the time and will in your day to write appears to be an important part of staying healthy.

Here are a few tips from Sam Horn, author of our Write Well, Write Fast, Write Now course:

  • Create a daily ritual. Tell yourself, “For five minutes every morning I’m going to grab a cup of tea and sit down to write.” Sit at the same place each time, and it will eventually become a habit.
  • Find a journal that feels right in your hands. If you don’t already have one, go to your local bookstore and find one that speaks to you. Maybe its cover features peacocks… horses… or a fine leather.
  • If you don’t know where to begin, do an Internet search to find lists of engaging questions like the Proust Questionnaire. Or begin asking yourself questions: What was something good that happened yesterday? What am I afraid of? What do I really want to say?
  • Write whatever comes to mind. Let your thoughts flow onto the paper. The faster your pen moves, the truer your thoughts are, because you are not censoring them.

Write out your thoughts daily while they are fresh and top of mind, and you may soon find yourself reaping the benefits of this nourishing ritual.

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