Writing To Heal

Social psychologist and University of Texas at Austin professor Dr. James Pennebaker has a simple assignment that he has been giving people for more than 20 years; he tells them to write down their deepest, most personal feelings about an upsetting experience in their lives:

Over the next four days, write about your deepest emotions and thoughts about the emotional upheaval that has been influencing your life the most. In your writing, really let go and explore the event and how it has affected you. You might tie this experience to your childhood, your relationship with your parents, people you have loved or love now, or even your career. Write continuously for 20 minutes.

As a result of revisiting painful or emotionally loaded topics they may have tried to avoid for years — relationships with parents, family secrets, tough break-ups — and put them into words through journaling, participants have experienced a variety of positive changes in their lives. Some have strengthened their health and immune systems, while others have seen their grades improve.

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