- Pierre Brouard and Judith Ancer
Expressive writing is the best known and most widely researched approach to using writing as a form of self-help. Expressive writing has been shown to be a surprisingly powerful way of coping with past traumas, current life stresses and worrying future events.
Typically one writes for 15 to 30 minutes about anything one feels particularly upset about. It is often helpful to write about things that one has mostly kept to oneself. If one writes about the topic on several occasions the emotions are gradually processed. This working through can benefit our health both psychologically and physically.
How does expressive writing help?
- Expressive writing can help by releasing internal stress. If we are holding onto powerful emotions without really expressing them, then the work involved in this inhibition produces internal stress on our bodies and minds. It can wear us down and increase our vulnerability to disease. Although initially expressive writing may be upsetting, it has been shown that it can reduce physical and psychological illness in the weeks and months after you use it.
Exercise for you: identify one thing that is worrying you, that causes you stress, that you obsess about, that wakes you up in the middle of the night – and keeps you awake! Describe this thing, identify why it is stressful for you, and write about what your life would be like without it.
Psychologists Pierre Brouard and Judith Ancer will be running their next Growing Through Writing workshop on 8 September in Johannesburg.