New research has shown that expressive writing could be a helpful stress reduction tool. Michigan State University researchers conducted a new study which found that jotting down our feelings can help ease anxiety and free up the brain. In doing so, this might be better at coping with future or past problems.
Advantages of Expressive Writing Seemingly Confirmed Through this New Study
In the study, chronically anxious college students were split into two groups. All of the participants had to take tests on the computer called “flanker tasks”. These measured their response and accuracy times. Before the test, one group spent eight minutes writing about emotional moments in their lives and how they made them feel. They didn’t have to worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation.
The second group just wrote about what happened to them the day before without any emotion. Both groups performed the same tasks at around the same speed and accuracy. However, brain scans showed the emotional writing group was more efficient in carrying out the tasks.
Hans Schroder, a doctoral student at Michigan State University and lead author of the study, explained, “Worrying takes up cognitive resources; it’s kind of like people who struggle with worry are constantly multitasking — they are doing one task and trying to monitor and suppress their worries at the same time.
Jason Moser, an Associate Professor at MSU, added that expressive writing helps the mind work less on “upcoming stressful tasks”. People that worry too much are believed to often get “burned out” over such a future task. In turn, this starts agitating their minds, which begin working harder, but not necessarily more efficient.
Moser considers that “This technique [writing] takes the edge off their brains so they can perform the task with a ‘cooler head’.”
Previous studies have shown the benefits brought by writing journals for people that suffered from post-traumatic stress and trauma. A 2013 study by the University of Auckland in New Zealand even demonstrated how expressive writing could speed up healing. However, this latest research proves the technique can also be useful for relieving anxiety in everyday life.
Detailed study findings are available in a paper in the journal Psychophysiology.
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