Researchers in New Zealand investigated whether expressive writing can help physical injuries heal. It has long been thought that such writing can improve mood and help with psychological trauma.
The researchers studied older adults, according to the article in Scientific American.
They chose 49 healthy adults from 64 to 97 years old and asked them to write about upsetting events or daily activities, for 20 minutes on 3 days in a row. Then after a lapse of two weeks to allow any negative feelings stirred up by writing about the upsets to pass, they gave each person a biopsy on the arm. They photographed the healing process over 21 days and discovered that by day 11, of the group doing the expressive writing 76% had fully healed as against 42% of the control group. It appears that a paper in September 2013 in the British Journal of Health Psychology indeed found that writing about an emotional topic lowered participants’ cortisol levels.
In the New Zealand study, the writers who had more sleep in the run up to the biopsy also healed faster.
Although expressive writing did aid healing when done after the event of the physical wound, the most beneficial time was when the writing had been done earlier, according to a BBC R4 programme about it, in the summer of 2017.