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Writing can Ease the Mind and Body, Study Reports

Update Date: Jul 16, 2013 12:46 PM EDT

Learning how to express one's thoughts through writing can be a difficult task for many people since using words to describe complex emotions can seem impossible. In a lot of situations, once teenagers and college students get a writing assignment, they often cringe because essays can be tedious and time consuming. Although writing might not be every one's cup of tea, a new study is reporting that writing could heal both mental and physical wounds.

In this study, the research team headed by Elizabeth Broadbent, a senior lecturer in health psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, evaluated the effects of coherently writing out one's emotions after experiencing a traumatic event that led to mental and physical damage. The researchers recruited 49 healthy seniors who were between the ages of 64 and 97. The participants were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to write for 20 minutes a day for three days. They were encouraged to write openly and candidly about how they felt at the moment of writing. They were also asked, if possible, to share emotions about any traumatic experiences that they have never shared before. The other half of the participants was asked to write down their plans for the next day for three days as well. They did not have to divulge anything about their emotions, thoughts and beliefs.

After two weeks since the first day of writing, the researchers took small skin biopsies using local anesthesia, which left a wound on each participant's arms. The researchers waited another week before they started taking pictures of the wounds every three to five days up to the point when the wound was healed. The researchers found that after 11 days post biopsy, the group who wrote about their feelings had a higher recovery rate. 76 percent of the people from this group fully healed in comparison to the 42 percent of the people in the other writing group that fully healed as well.

"This is the first study to show that writing about personally distressing events can speed wound healing in [an older] population at risk of poor healing," Broadbent said according to TIME.

Researchers theorized that not only does writing about one's emotions ease the mind, it could make sleeping more peaceful as well. The more sleep someone gets, the better the body recuperates from a wound. Although this study found an association between writing and recovery, it is surely not the first one to tie these two variables together. Previous studies have found that writing down one's emotions can ease the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly in war veterans. In some studies that found that writing did not reduce PTSD symptoms, the participants still managed to report feeling lower levels of stress.

The researchers acknowledge the fact that this tactic might not help everyone since some people do not enjoy writing or cannot fully express themselves through writing. The study was published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

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