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Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Study: Journaling Helps With Coping

By February 14, 2011

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Researchers examined injured athletes--people who tend to experience high levels of anxiety and negative mood--and had them write about their experiences in a journal for 20 minutes per day, 3 days in a row. They wrote about their negative emotions surrounding their injuries and rehabilitation experiences. 4 weeks later, researchers measured their levels of psychological stress and mood disturbance, as well as measures of immune functioning, and found significantly improved outcomes in those who had participated in the journaling intervention. This research, in other words, shows that writing about your negative feelings can actually have an effect not only on your mood and your feelings of stress, but on your health as well!

I found these results to be very positive and helpful. I think many of us have found it to be useful to write about strong feelings as a way to release them, and this is one more piece of validation that this approach works.

I also found it noteworthy that the writing period in the study lasted only 20 minutes per day. I think this may have helped stave off rumination in two ways: first, there was a limit to how much time was spent focusing on these negative emotions during the writing intervention; second, subjects may have felt less of a need to focus on these feelings when they weren't actively journaling about them, because they were able to focus on the feelings and let them go. Many people who use this approach find it helpful to know that there will be a time in the day to focus on these thoughts and emotions, and knowing that "there will be a time for this" made it easier to focus on other things throughout the day.

Have you used journaling to cope with intense emotions? What approach has worked best for you? Share in the comments section, and please visit us on Facebook for more stress management information and discussions. We'd love to see you there!

Source: Mankad, Aditi; Gordon, Sandy; Wallman, Karen. Psycho-immunological effects of written emotional disclosure during long-term injury rehabilitation. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, Vol 3(3), Sep, 2009. pp. 205-217.

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