According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, writing about stressful life events helped reduce symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis in patients with these chronic illnesses. The effects of the writing exercise were still evident four months later and resulted in clinically meaningful improvements in patient symptoms.
Interestingly, studies showed that asthma patients who wrote about their most stressful life events showed a 19-percent improvement in lung function; similarly, rheumatoid arthritis patients had a 28-percent reduction in symptoms.
These findings add to a growing body of evidence that links mental and emotional health to physical well-being. Although researchers aren’t sure exactly how expressive writing can lead to health improvements, they theorize that writing help people cope with stress, and stress—as well all know—clearly impacts health.
University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. He theorizes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.
Louise Moran, a nurse coordinator, has written about a patient who, during a serious illness, sent daily e-mails to friends and family about her illness, a practice the woman believes played a pivotal role in her healing process. Moran said another patient felt that journaling helped her create a new life after breast cancer. There have even been studies suggesting that journaling in healthy people actually improves the immune system.