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The healing power of writing

If you think about it, many of us write more than we used to. Long after we gave up on handwritten letters, we started making comments and inboxes on Facebook, and texting on WhatsUp,

For many of us, lots of what we write is not really very useful to our lives. Today’s post is about how you can re-direct some of the time you spend on frivolous texting, into just a little time writing for yourself, and how that may give you significant mental and physical health benefits.

This might sound like self-help nonsense, but there is well-done research that says it really works.

These studies—published in scientific journals—all gave results showing that a little personal writing can be a powerful healing tool. It costs nothing and there are no side effects.

Here is the first example of of how it has worked for other people. In this case, for married couples.

The study authors, from Northwestern and Stanford Universities (USA), noted that “Of the social factors linked to mental and physical health, marital quality is among the most important. Unfortunately, marital quality normatively declines over time.” By a simple intervention, they were able to stop that drop in the quality of the relationship.

Their research, published in Psychological Science, involved 120 married couples. The study lasted two years, and during that time, each study participant was regularly surveyed over how happy they were in their marriage.

During the first year of the study, most of the individuals noted that as the year went by, their level of satisfaction in their marriage slowly decreased somewhat. At the end of the first year, the couples were randomly assigned to two different groups. The 60 couples in the “intervention group” had a writing “assignment” at three times during the second year. Each assignment was simple—each person wrote a very short essay about how they resolved certain conflicts in their relationship. The total time spent on the three essays was only 21 minutes.

The writings were not “graded” or judged by anyone else. The idea was just to get these individuals to write down how they were dealing with the inevitable problems that come up in any marriage. They were asked to write from the perspective of a neutral “third-party” person about their conflict resolution techniques. That’s all. The other 60 couples did not do the writing.

The results, at the end of two years, was that the couples in the intervention group—the ones that wrote short essays about their relationship—did not suffer any further decline in their relationship. And this was the judgment of the individual participants themselves, not the researchers making judgments about the couples.

So the simple process of actually writing down something serious about their relationship was enough to make them happier in their marriages. In our next and final post on this subject, we will give two more examples about the healing power of writing, including a study sponsored by the Johnson and Johnson Human Performance Institute.

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)