….and writing as potential body builder

By: Taylor Hylton

Dear diary, I’m told writing is one of the best ways to sort out my soul and heal my body. Is that right?

Decades ago, in 1986, momentous research was conducted by Professor James Pennebaker, the Regents Centennial Chair of Psychology at the University of Texas and winner a numerous awards and honors. His research concluded that writing helps not only your emotional state of mind, but also physically.

He asked 46 robust students to write honestly about their lives for 15 minutes, four days in a row. Up to six months afterward, the students with traumatic backgrounds visited the health center less compared to those who wrote about inconsequential things.

One Cedar Falls student has personally found these finding to be true. “I believe it’s [helpful] emotionally,” junior Genna Dayton said, “because when you write a paper about your life, it can be very emotional and healthy for you. I think it makes you feel better about yourself because you believe in yourself and you aren’t afraid of being who you are.”

Research done by Sian Beilock, associate professor in psychology at the University of Chicago, asked students to write briefly about their worries before taking a test. By far, the better of the grades would come from those who actually took the time to write.

According to Beilock, allowing students to write 10 minutes before testing calmed them. Not only that, but the part of the brain that worries about the test was more occupied with the writing. That way their brains focused completely on the task of taking the test.

Another research case had participants write 15-20 minutes for three to five days in a row. The researchers gathered enough information from the small research to say with finality that those who wrote were better psychologically and physically for a time afterward.

While writing is undeniably helpful during times of distress, professor Pennebaker warns that writing therapy is not for everyone. With this in mind, perhaps it is not the writing that allows one to feel better or do better, but rather the expression of oneself.

Junior Emily Winkner agreed. “I was upset with a situation recently and wrote down every reason why I was upset. And I realized it wasn’t a big deal. Venting is great and allows you to see things in a new light.”

So in conclusion, the diary answered, yes, to the power of writing, but not in so many words.

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