Writing about a distressing or upsetting experience can help you cope better.
Putting feelings into words is cathartic, scientists have found.
The findings, from a research team at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggest that one of the main reasons we write things down – from keeping a diary to composing poetry – is that it brings peace of mind and relieves stress.
‘When people sit down to write, they may not know exactly why, but there seems to be this benefit,’ head of the research team, Dr Matthew Lieberman told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago.
The research suggests that writing therapy could help people suffering from psychological conditions such as social anxiety disorder, phobias or post-traumatic stress and even be developed into therapies for sufferers.
Dr Lieberman explained: ‘What it boils down to is the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which seems to be involved in self-control and self-regulation. Putting feelings into words is one of the things that turns this region on, and therefore has regulatory benefits.’
The researchers warned, though, that the success of writing things down depends on the way in which they’re written about. ‘Truly vivid emotional language might reactivate the negative experience.’