Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times writes:
'The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.
Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing -- and then rewriting -- your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.
The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
At the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, life coaches ask clients to identify their goals, then to write about why they haven’t achieved those goals.
Once the clients have written their old stories, they are asked to reflect on them and edit the narratives to come up with a new, more honest assessment. While the institute doesn’t have long-term data, the intervention has produced strong anecdotal results.
In one example, a woman named Siri initially wrote in her “old story” that she wanted to improve her fitness, but as the primary breadwinner for her family she had to work long hours and already felt guilty about time spent away from her children.
With prompting, she eventually wrote a new story, based on the same facts but with a more honest assessment of why she doesn’t exercise. “The truth is,” she wrote, “I don’t like to exercise, and I don’t value my health enough. I use work and the kids to excuse my lack of fitness.”
Intrigued by the evidence that supports expressive writing, I decided to try it myself, with the help of Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute.
Like Siri, I have numerous explanations for why I don’t find time for exercise. But once I started writing down my thoughts, I began to discover that by shifting priorities, I am able to make time for exercise.
“When you get to that confrontation of truth with what matters to you, it creates the greatest opportunity for change,” Dr. Groppel said.'