• Frederique Morris

Writing may strengthen your immune system

We are experiencing an exceptional time. During this pandemic some people see opportunities for the change needed and others - many - are going through times of high stress and emotional upheaval. Expressive writing has shown to be a simple and effective way to deal with these challenges and the problematic feelings they may bring up.

"The healing power of expressive writing can restore your body, mind, and spirit" - Julia Cameron

Research conducted by Dr James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin, and Dr Joshua Smyth of Syracuse University suggests that writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning in patients with such illnesses like HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis.


Compared with a control group that wrote about superficial topics, participants who wrote about traumatic experiences for fours consecutive days reported greater happiness three months later and visited the doctor less than usual during a six-week period following the writing exercise.


The way people use writing to interpret their experiences may benefit the immune system


A stressful event or major life transition, can keep us in our head, prevent us from sleeping at night, distract us from our work and make us feel less connected to others. Through writing we can become active creators of our own life stories and, as a result, we become empowered to cope with challenges. Dr Pennebaker advises clinicians and patients to wait at least one or two months after a traumatic event before trying this technique.


Expressive writing allows us to step back for a moment and evaluate our lives


Research suggests that completing this expressive writing exercise can increase happiness, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, strengthen the immune system, and improve work and school performance. These benefits have been shown to persist for months.


Expressive Writing Exercise


Time Required:

20 minutes per day for four consecutive days


How to do Expressive Writing:

Over the next four days, write down your deepest emotions and thoughts about an emotional challenge that has been affecting your life. In your writing, 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.


Expressive Writing Tips:

  • Find a time and place where you won't be disturbed.

  • Write continuously for at least 20 minutes.

  • Don't worry about spelling or grammar.

  • Write only for yourself.

  • Write about something extremely personal and important to you.

  • Deal only with events or situations you can handle now—that is, don't write about a trauma too soon after it has happened if it feels too overwhelming.

  • After the four days of writing, try writing from the perspectives of other people involved in the event or situation.

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