Researchers are studying whether the power of writing your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.
The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can develop mood disorders, help reduce symptoms in cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and boost memory.
The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our views of the world. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t completely get it. Researchers think that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
In one of the earliest studies on personal story editing, researchers gathered 40 college freshman at Duke University who were under pressure academically. Not only were they worried about grades, but they questioned whether they were intellectual equals to the other students.
The students were divided into intervention groups and control groups. Students in the intervention group were given information that it is common for students to struggle in their freshman year. They watched videos of junior and senior college students who discussed their own grades improving as they adjusted to college.
The goal was to prompt the students to edit their own narratives about college. Rather than thinking they weren’t made for college, they were encouraged to think that they just needed more time to adjust.
The intervention results, which were published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, were astonishing. In the short term, the students who had undergone the story-changing intervention got better grades on a sample test. But the long-term results were the most impressive.
Students who had been prompted to modify their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no information. In the control group, which had received no advice about grades, 20 percent of the students had dropped out within a year. But in the intervention group, only 1 student — or just 5 percent — dropped out.
Another study asked married couples to write about conflict as a neutral observer. Among 120 couples, people who explored their problems through writing showed higher levels of marital happiness than those who didn’t write.
Dr. Wilson, whose book “Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,” believes that while writing doesn’t solve every problem, it can definitely help people cope. “Writing forces people to reconstruct whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,” he said.
Author: Blaine Pollock
Philanthropist and Businessman, Blaine Pollock is the creative force behind World News MD/Depression.net. Mr. Pollock has dedicated his life to providing global health services and education. Blaine is also the author of the newly released Children’s Book “O My Walter’. Find the magical book, ‘O My Walter’ at omywalter.com.