Can Writing Help Your Body Fight Off Illness?
In the June 2008 edition of Scientific American magazine in the Neurobiology section, the article “The Healthy Type” by Jessica Wapner brings up the link between expressive writing and health when it states “…besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery.”
This got me to thinking about all the benefits I get from writing, whether I’m blogging, composing articles, or writing fiction. I do experience an almost euphoric sense of well-being when I’ve written something. Is the euphoria a result of my satisfaction of having completed something or a result of my having expressed myself? Some of this might be related to the phenomenon of being in “the zone” but I don’t only write when I’m on a roll. Sometimes I work at it and yet I still feel good after having done it.
I can’t say much more about the physiological effects of writing, but there are some benefits that are easy for me to define.
- Blogging makes me feel connected to other people. Even if no one comments on a post I’ve made, there’s a sense of community whenever I put something up on my blog. I never feel like I’m writing to a void. I always imagine someone reading what I’ve written and this gives me a sense of well-being that sticks with me for a while after I’ve posted.
- Writing boosts my creativity levels. Once I begin writing, I gain momentum. Ideas come to me like rain to earth and the creative energy spreads to other parts of my brain. I start to think creatively on many different planes, solving problems and questioning assumptions.
- Using a keyboard keeps my fingers limber. This might sound like I’m trying to be clever, but I truly believe that keeping my fingers moving is a way to fight off stiffness in my finger joints. Now, I’m many, many years (I hope) from having issues with things like arthritis, but one key to relieving symptoms of this inflammatory disease is to keep your joints limber by using them.
I’m sure there are other benefits to writing that I’ve missed. Consider sharing your own ideas about how writing benefits you and your health. Does it help you fight off illness?
- Scientific American, June 2008