For many of us, writing is a practical tool. We use it to communicate our thoughts, ideas, and experiences with other people—usually through email and social media. However, considerable research shows that writing as a personal venture (like keeping a journal) has exciting health and wellness benefits too.
Here are 11 science-backed ways that writing regularly will improve your mind, body, and spirit:
1. Communicate better
Writing well helps you become a better communicator. By being able to write well, you're also able to express yourself verbally to communicate well with others. This leads to better relationships with people and having your needs met more easily. And just as importantly, you can understand yourself better too.
2. Become smarter
Writing in a reflective journal can help you evaluate information better, and increase your ability to conceptualize and apply what you've experienced or learned. A reflective journal can include positive or negative experiences, thoughts, ideas, feelings, class notes, and anything that can help you inspect your own thoughts and feelings.
3. Increase memory capacity
Having a better memory will help you become smarter as well. As it turns out, writing can help you have a better memory.
A study found that when 35 freshman students were assigned to write about their thoughts and feelings regarding upcoming college life, these students displayed a greater increase in working memory seven weeks later, in comparison to the 36 students who were assigned to write on a trivial topic.
Researchers theorize that by expressing oneself through writing about things that are bothersome, stress and worries can decrease, enabling more space and resources to be freed up for memory capacity.
4. Achieve goals
Would you like to learn how to play the piano? Or get an A in your physical chemistry class?
Research showed that when participants kept a journal of what they were grateful for, they were more likely to have strived closer toward the attainment of personal goals over a two-month period, whether these goals be academic, interpersonal, or health-related. In contrast, participants who journaled about daily hassles in their life, or even neutral life events, did not progress toward their goals.
Another study found that expressive writing can help boost students' grade-point averages. Write your heart out, young academics!
5. Boost job prospects
For those who have recently lost their job and don't know what to do, writing can help people become re-employed faster after job loss.
In a study with 63 recently unemployed professionals, the ones who wrote about their thoughts and feelings regarding their job loss got another job faster than those who wrote about neutral topics or those that did not write anything.
Another study showed that expressive writing has also been shown to help people miss fewer days of work. University employees who utilized expressive writing to write about traumatic experiences had a 28.6 percent decrease in absentee rates that month from work, compared to the 48.5 percent increase in absentee rates among employees who wrote about nontraumatic topics.
6. Support immune system
In a study involving 50 healthy undergraduate students, those who wrote about trauma reported more positive emotions, fewer illnesses, and showed evidence of a higher functioning cellular immune system.
In another study, 40 medical students who tested negative for hepatitis B antibodies were randomly assigned to write about either their traumatic experiences or a neutral topic, and then were given a hepatitis B vaccine. Those assigned to write about traumatic experiences mounted a greater vaccine response by producing more antibodies.
In a study of HIV-positive patients, those who wrote about their emotions experienced a reduction in HIV viral load and an increase in immune function.
7. Reduce blood pressure
When university employees in a study were asked to write either about traumatic experiences or a superficial topic, those who wrote about trauma had significantly reduced blood pressure measures. See a pattern emerging?
8. Improve lung function
Not only does expressive writing enhance your immune system and reduce blood pressure, but it can also raise lung function. A study found that patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis experienced better lung function and reduction of symptoms after writing about stressful life experiences.
9. Boost athletic performance
Athletes often use training logs and journals to help themselves excel. Writing can keep track of goals, help an athlete learn about experiences, assist in managing emotions, and can be a key to athletic self-development. So if you want to write down how you felt during your last run, or keep a record of the amount of weight that you last dead-lifted, etc., your performance will likely benefit.
10. Heal from trauma
Let's face it. Dealing with your emotions and venting past hurtful experiences and traumas is hard. Expressive writing, which involves personal and emotional expression and the articulation of trauma, has been found to help deal with traumatic and upsetting experiences.
Research has shown that participants who wrote about their personal traumatic experiences benefited from improved health, fewer stress-related trips to the doctor, reduced stress levels, and improved mood. Study participants were able to vent negative emotions and organize their anxious feelings associated with trauma. Thus, writing expressively has a healing quality.
11. Cultivate gratitude
Life is better when you are grateful. Especially when you write down what you are grateful for.
Research showed that participants who journaled about what they were grateful for every week, compared to those who wrote about daily hassles or neutral events in their journals, were more physically active, reported fewer physical ailments, were more content with their lives, and were more optimistic about the week ahead.
As you can see, writing not only helps you become smarter and achieve your goals but can ease what ails you, too, whether physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual.
If you want to improve your life, why not make writing a regular habit?