Writing. Turns out that people who write about traumatic experiences for 15 to 20 minutes a day for three or four days are healthier! They visited doctors less in the following months than people who wrote about superficial topics, according to psychologists James Pennebaker and Anna Graybeal of the University of Texas at Austin. Writing about trauma can boost the immune system, reduce levels of stress chemicals, and improve grades in school, reports the Dallas Morning News. There's lots of anecdotal evidence from professional writers about how the act of writing has helped them cope with problems, especially mental illness.
But WHY? The obvious answer--you feel better when you get it out of your system--isn't right. "There is now sufficient evidence to suggest that the power of writing is not due to mere emotional expression in the sense of cathartic venting, or 'blowing off steam,'" Pennebaker and Graybeal write in Current Directions in Psychological Science. They conclude that when we write about a traumatic event, it influences how we think about things and gives us a better understanding of the experience and its emotions. We write. We understand more. We experience positive changes in our lives. And get this: Pennebaker and Graybeal determined that people who use the words "because," "reason," "realize," and "understand" in their writing are healthier than those who do not. I hope you realize what this means because there's a reason for you to understand it. --Cathryn Conroy from Compuserve News