Can writing mindfully be more healing than writing expressively?

I’ve always believed that writing down feelings is a route to healing them. For me, as a writer, the mere action of putting fingers to keyboard and letting my soul spill out onto the screen is healing in itself.

Write mindfully about everyday happenings can help divorced people face their feelings. (pic:istockphoto.com/nameinframe)

But that’s not the case for everyone ā€“ especially people going through recent separation or divorce. Or so says this fascinating report from Huffington Post on a scientific study into the different kinds of writing therapy that can have different kinds of emotional effects.

Researchers asked one group to write about their anger, guilt and all the other feelings that come up post-divorce. A second group wrote their story with a beginning, middle and an end, like a novel. And a third group merely wrote down what they did during the day (went shopping, sent emails etc). The groups were also categorised into people who brood over things and people who seek meaning from their trauma.

The outcome of the experiment wasn’t at all what scientists were expecting, however. The feeling writers and story writers fared worse emotionally than the people cataloguing their daily deeds ā€“ suggesting that brooding on your feelings when they’re raw really doesn’t help separated people feel any better.

I’m surprised and fascinated by the article’s conclusion. Author Wray Herbert says: “Writing about boring and ordinary stuff helps divorcing men and women to re-engage in their daily lives without focusing on emotional pain and loss. Thinking about lunch and laundry may distract brooders from their brooding.”

So there we have it. Being mindful of the boring stuff in the moment is what can really help.

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