Friday, March 02, 2007

March 2, 2007 - The Write Way To Heal

Today, I run across a news article about a Harvard medical researcher named Susan Bauer-Wu, who’s been working with cancer patients. She’s discovered the exercise of journaling to be therapeutic for the people she’s working with. She calls it “expressive writing” or “journal therapy.”

It’s simple, and about as low-tech as you can get: the only equipment needed is a pen and a notebook. From the article:

“The research suggests that by spending 30 minutes each day for four days to write out their innermost thoughts and feelings, patients can significantly boost mental and physical health.

And experts say nearly everyone who tries journal therapy stands to benefit.

‘Many people are so surprised at how it really works,’ said Bauer-Wu, director of the Cantor Center for Nursing and Patient Care Research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. ‘Even people who were reluctant to do it, who say, “I’m not a good writer, I can't write well, or I don't like to.” They'll go through the process and have that “A-ha” moment. They'll tell us – “Wow, I never realized this about myself, or about this disease – it just came out onto the paper.”’

Expressive writing therapy is just that: Patients are encouraged to express whatever is on their mind, letting their hopes and fears flow out in a natural, unrestrained way. It’s akin to keeping a journal, but more focused on the things that might be bothering you or triggering stress.”

I wonder if maybe that’s what I’ve been doing, in keeping this online journal. My approach is a bit more high-tech than pen and paper, but it’s not all that different. Bauer-Wu is right: I have found it therapeutic to keep a written record of the things I’ve been going through. I doubt if I would ever have begun it, though, were I writing simply for myself. The thought that others (family, friends, and various and sundry web-surfers) might find my ruminations helpful has kept me going, lo these many months.

Some experts are claiming, the article goes on to say, that journal-writing reduces stress and boosts the immune system. Well, I’ve got a cancer of the immune system. It’s not hard to understand why that would be helpful.

Interesting stuff. Now, if I could only get my medical insurance to reimburse me for the cost of my internet access....


Lynne said...

I check in with your blog periodically, and smiled at this one. Like you, I find writing a blog about my cancer experience to be very therapeutic. Even though I don't say everything I'm thinking and feeling in my public blog, the way I would in a private journal, there is a different level to feeling that I'm in an ongoing "conversation" with those who read what I write. I feel less lonely on my cancer journey, and also that my words have the potential to provide information and assistance to others (as well as letting me vent!)

Thanks for finding and writing about this research. She has simply quantified what many of us have learned through experience, I guess!

My best to you on your journey, this challenging cancer journey.

Carlos ("Carl") said...

Thanks for these thoughts, Lynne. I'm a bit behind on replying to comments, I now realize - the e-mail notices from Blogger were getting caught in my spam filter, but I've now corrected that problem.

I check in with your blog, too. Isn't it a great thing that we're able to travel together on this journey, using the internet?