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Writing Your Way to Happiness -

Writing Your Way to Happiness NYTimes com


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 improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.

Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.

The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe 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.

It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.


“These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself,” said Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the Duke study.

Dr. Wilson, whose book “Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,” was released in paperback this month, believes that while writing doesn’t solve every problem, it can definitely help people cope. “Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,” he said.

Much of the work on expressive writing has been led by James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. In one of his experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics. Afterward, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center.

“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.”

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I should try this writing thing some time.

Not just writing, but editing. Apparently.

I usually edit what I write before I post it.  However, I think it is likely that good immediate discussion, especially causing you to justify and expand on your remarks, is at least as good as a lone editing phase.  It is likely better in many cases.

Makes sense.

I was just pointing out that the article explicitly says that rewriting your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.

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