Hi everyone and welcome to PI and my first blog! I guess that makes me an official “blogger”.  After completing my doctoral thesis back in 2013, I soon realised that I actually loved to write, when I chose to, rather than “having to”.  Since then I’ve been writing a “stress-less column” for Australian Women’s Health magazine for the past 7 years together with various other media articles and the more I write, the more I realise I love it!  I’ve also written 7 scientific journal articles and 10 book chapters! This year I set a goal to write my very own first book and my book proposal is currently in the hands of an agent for review – fingers crossed!

So for our first blog I ‘m choosing to write about writing.  Yes there’s been some impressive research conducted on the therapeutic outcomes of expressive writing.  The major researcher in this space is James Pennebaker and if you’re interested in reading more email us at info@thepositivityinstitute.com.au.

The Research

In a nutshell, Pennebaker found that when individuals write about emotional experiences significant mental and physical benefits follow.
The seminal expressive writing study instructed participants in the experimental group to write about a ‘past trauma’, expressing their very deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding it. In contrast, control participants were asked to write as objectively and factually as possible about neutral topics (e.g. a particular room or their plans for the day), without revealing their emotions or opinions. For both groups, the timescale was 15 minutes of continuous writing repeated over four consecutive days. It was also instructed that should a participant run out of things to write, they should go back to the beginning and repeat themselves, perhaps writing a little differently.

Several measurements were made before and after, but the most striking finding was that relative to the control group, the experimental group made significantly fewer visits to a physician in the following months. Although many report being upset by the writing experience, they also find it valuable and meaningful.

These results have hatched a whole host of further studies, numbering over 200.  One of these went on to strongly suggest that expressive writing has the potential to actually provide a ‘boost’ to the immune system, perhaps explaining the reduction in physician visits.
You can read more about Pennebaker’s research here – http://www.utexas.edu/features/archive/2005/writing.html.

The Challenge

Firstly invest in a journal.  There are so many beautiful journals available now from stationery stores. Here at PI, we’ll also be launching our own journals early in 2015 so stay posted.  I’d also encourage you to consider investing in a good pen, perhaps even a fountain pen?  The act of journal writing, I believe, can be enhanced by using the character strengths of “Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence” (www.viacharacter.org) and by savouring (the deliberate attention to sensory pleasure) so try to do everything you an to create a positive experience.

Secondly, schedule some “journal writing time” which will need to slot simply into your life timetable.  If you don’t schedule it, it’s unlikely to happen so open your diary now and schedule in an appointment with yourself. First thing in the morning is usually conducive to writing as you have a fresh mind and perspective on things.

Thirdly, try it as a “behavioural experiment” – give it a shot for a month – if it’s helpful, keep doing it, if not perhaps try again at another point where you might benefit more from it.

And finally don’t forget to bring a “growth mindset” to writing.  So watch the ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) eg I can’t write, this is too hard etc.  Someone with a growth mindset knows that through practice and effort, a skill can be developed and competence can occur.  You never know, you might even decide to become a blogger too!
Happy writing everyone!

Best wishes, PI & I (Suzy)