- Question from AngelaX: What is emotional writing? Does it improve your physical health?
Emotional writing, or what is often called expressive writing, is a very specific intervention that has been studied since the mid-1980s. Dr. James Pennebaker originally conducted this research with undergraduates, and had them write their deepest thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic events in their lives. The idea in one's writing is to write things that perhaps you have never shared with anyone else, to really dig deeply inside yourself and put that on paper. This form of expressive writing is typically done very acutely for three or four different sessions over a one-week period of time. It is very different from journaling, because the objective here is to do it just for a short period of time, and to really delve deeply into your feelings about a difficult situation.
This specific form of writing has been found to have an effect on mainly physical outcomes. People have investigated changes in the immune system and found that people will respond faster to a vaccination if they were in the writing group as compared with the control group, and their immune function increases compared with a control group. A study comparing women with breast cancer at the end of their treatment found fewer visits to the clinic in the follow-up period with breast cancer related issues if they had been in this very brief expressive writing group. A small study that we did for people with kidney cancer found improved sleep quality after only four sessions of this expressive writing. There is a lot of ongoing research around the world looking at this particular form of writing and what the physical and psychological benefits can be. It is important to note that there can be an increase in negative mood for a short period of time after doing this type of writing. But what is also unique about this type of writing is that you as the writer can titrate how deeply you go.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Complementary Medicine Techniques Part 3 featured Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D. and moderator Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about different types of complementary techniques and how they can help during and after breast cancer treatment.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in March 2007.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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