A person is writing in a journal while the sun is rising in the background.

Telling Your Story May Be Good for Your Health

“While writing about my health issues has not cured them, it has helped me develop better coping skills and even contributed to better management of my symptoms. . . . I could argue at times [it] helps decrease my symptoms, or at least distracts me from them and the attendant pain.”
– Laura Kiesel, Community Advocate

The past few years have taken a toll on most of us. However, there is evidence that telling stories about what you have been through can be good for your health. Researchers have found that writing about our experiences – especially traumatic, emotional, or stressful experiences – can benefit both physical and mental health.1

Mental and physical health benefits

In a study on expressive writing, researchers asked 1 group of participants to select a personally traumatic experience and spend 15 minutes writing about it for 4 days in a row. The researchers then compared this group's responses with those of a group that wrote about neutral topics. The first group said they had an improved mood after writing. They also reported long-term health benefits including improved memory, fewer intrusive bad thoughts or memories, and reduced blood pressure.1

The study found that participants with serious health diagnoses showed even more improvement than those in the control group. They reported better sleep, less pain intensity, and even improvements to their immune system.1

How does writing about traumatic experiences have a positive effect on our bodies? One theory is that bottling up thoughts and emotions related to a painful event stresses the body and mind. Bringing those feelings out through writing may reduce that stress and provide relief.2

Tips for getting started

Schedule a time and place

If you are someone who responds to a routine, schedule a time in your day to write. Find a peaceful place to write where you will not be interrupted.1

Try different ways

Try writing freehand in different types of notebooks or journals. Then try writing on your phone or computer. Some people write by speaking into a recorder and having it transcribed by a computer program or app. See what works for you.

Do not edit as you write the first draft

The researchers in the expressive writing study told participants to not think about spelling, grammar, or how their story might be perceived.1

Monitor your anxiety

Be sure to check in with yourself emotionally as you are writing by ranking your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10. Some events take a long time to process before you can write about them, and you may not be ready today. If you rate your anxiety at a high number while writing, put it aside. You can focus on self-care now and let yourself write when you are ready.

Writing exercises

Morning pages

Julia Cameron, author of the self-expression workbook The Artist’s Way, describes an exercise called Morning Pages. She suggests writing for 3 pages without stopping the moment you wake up in the morning. This activity helps you express yourself without a filter and start the day with a clearer mind.3

Third-person perspective

Some therapists suggest using creative ways to provide distance from difficult topics. One technique is to write about something that happened to you from a third-person perspective. For example: “[Your name] walked into the waiting room feeling anxious and stared at the floor until they finally called her name.”4

Share with us

The events we experience can sometimes make us feel lonely and isolated. While telling our stories can have a positive effect on our health, it can affect a reader just as strongly. We invite you to share your story with our thyroid eye disease (TED) community.

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