When we think about the importance of what we write, we often think about professional scenarios: describing a new product or nailing a tricky email. And yes, those are important skills to hone. But the power of writing doesn’t end in the workplace. Writing for yourself (journaling) or to key people in your life (letters) may be a quick way to improve your health.
Write that letter
Writing to others—whether it’s a card or a quick note—doesn’t just brighten their day. It has significant advantages for you, too.
Writing letters that express kindness, gratitude and affection appears to have special health-boosting effects, including lowering cholesterol. Two studies had college students write about their affection for friends, family members or partners for just 20 minutes on three separate occasions. A control group wrote about unremarkable topics instead. The students who wrote the emotionally charged content experienced a significant reduction in total cholesterol by the end of the five-week trials.
Zeroing in on feelings of gratitude could have other benefits, too: a study of more than 400 people found that those who felt more gratitude experienced better and longer sleep, as well as less daytime dysfunction.
Try writing your letters before bed, or at least thinking about what you’d like to say: the researchers found that having positive thoughts just before falling asleep could be the key to the relationship between gratitude and improved sleep.
Capture those thoughts
If the last thing you wrote for your eyes only was a grocery list, you might want to dig a little deeper and give journaling a try.
Expressive writing (writing about deeply affecting events) has been linked with lower blood pressure and improved lung and liver function. Research has found that regular expressive writing results in better working memory, improved social skills and brighter mood.
Regular writing has also been found to improve physical function. Researchers have concluded that because of the role it plays in stress reduction, journaling may contribute to a stronger immune system, improved respiratory and circulatory function and enhanced sleep.
Journaling allows you to express your emotions and vent frustrations. It’s a tool for empowerment and growth. If you are trying to make your way out of confusing life events or simply want a more balanced life, consider spending 20 minutes every morning to write out your feelings.
Date your entries and begin by recounting events from the previous day—or cut to the jugular and describe how you are feeling in the moment. Why do you feel this way? What do you want to change in your life? What is your dream, and what do you have to do to get there? Write down your thoughts without judging the grammar or quality of the content. Remember: these words are just for you—and for your health.