Benefits of Expressive Writing

by Catherine DeAngelis

Research studies over the past several decades show that writing about emotional, traumatic or stressful events has been found to induce improvements to both psychological and physical health.

If you are keeping a diary or journal to explore your emotions, thoughts and feelings around the events of your life, you may compliment studies conducted within non-clinical and clinical populations, where results show this kind of expressive writing brings beneficial effects on physical and emotional health.

In one study on expressive writing conducted on college students, by Pennebaker & Beall, 1986, they concluded : ‘writing about earlier traumatic experience was associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems.’

Although studies reported that the immediate impact of expressive writing is usually a short-term increase in distress, negative mood and physical symptoms, and a decrease in positive mood compared with controls, also there are longer-term benefits.

Long Term Benefits to Expressive Writing [1]

Health outcomes

  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved lung function
  • Improved liver function
  • Fewer days in hospital
  • Improved mood/affect
  • Feeling of greater psychological well-being
  • Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations
  • Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms

Social and behavioural outcomes

  • Reduced absenteeism from work
  • Quicker re-employment after job loss
  • Improved working memory
  • Improved sporting performance
  • Higher students’ grade point average
  • Altered social and linguistic behaviour

There are many journaling options for you to explore, here’s one site that may help you get started – The Benefits of Journaling – How to Get Started.


[1] Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (2005) 11: 338-346 © 2005 – The Royal College of Psychiatrists – Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing  Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm
Copyright © 2012 Catangelis Communications
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