Writing a diary makes you happier

hand-written journalBrain scans suggest that daily writing about your emotions can help you feel better about things; writing by hand is apparently more effective than typing:

The psychologists investigated the effect by inviting volunteers to visit the lab for a brain scan before asking them to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Half of the participants wrote about a recent emotional experience, while the other half wrote about a neutral experience.

Those who wrote about an emotional experience showed more activity in part of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which in turn dampened down neural activity linked to strong emotional feelings.

If pouring your heart into dreadful poetry and song lyrics really is an emotionally beneficial outlet, does it then follow that MySpace deserves some sort of award for keeping teenagers from committing suicide? [image by Boa-sorte&Careca]

3 thoughts on “Writing a diary makes you happier”

  1. Just don’t mistake writing done for therapy reasons for art. Anyone who’s ever sat through open mike fiction and poetry readings can tell you the difference.

    Like most writers, I’ve kept journals of various kinds for years. I write to figure out what I don’t understand, whether it’s my own emotions or politics or what I really think about something.

  2. Which makes it all the more sad most younger people don’t “write” with pens anymore. Many I know barely know how to write cursive these days; it isn’t taught as much anymore. Computers/cell phones have taken over most writing and communications functions nowadays.

  3. Understood, Nancy – though I think many writers (myself included) may have started with subconscious self-therapy and moved toward the artistic mode (though, naturally, with very varying degrees of success – I am more than familiar with poetry open mic nights!)

    I’ve just started daily journalling this year, and it really does make a difference to my ability to think through a problem or idea. Still a lot to learn, though; I can’t always seem to turn the faucet fully, if you see what I mean.

    Sleuth – yeah, we had a post about cursive recently. As I said at the time, I’m not sure it’s that terrible a loss over all – we’re close to it because that’s how we were taught to write. That said, it remains to be seen whether writer on an electronic device has the same psychological benefits. Speaking personally, I can’t ‘think-write’ unless I’m using a pen (i.e. for journalling or poetry) but for longer-form fiction or essays I can’t seem to get into the right frame of mind without using a word-processor. I guess I’m on the generational cusp. 🙂

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