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.
The new findings add to a growing body of evidence linking mental health to physical well-being. Although researchers are not sure how this technique -- called "expressive writing" -- can lead to improvements in health, they speculate that it may help people better cope with stress, which can take a deleterious toll on health.
On average, asthma patients who wrote about their most stressful life event showed a 19% improvement in a specific measure of lung function, while control asthma patients showed no change, the researchers report. Rheumatoid arthritis patients were found to have a 28% reduction in symptoms, whereas control arthritis patients did not improve.
Ventilation of negative emotion, even just to an unknown reader, seems to have helped these patients acknowledge, bear, and put into perspective their distress. In this and a growing number of studies, it is not simply mind over matter, but is it clear that mind matters.
The Journal of the American Medical Association April 14, 1999;281:1304-1309, 1328-1329
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
I suspect that if the authors of this study were to have provided similar outcome evidence about a new drug, it likely would be in widespread use within a short time. This is a very powerful discipline. I have been journaling for the last fourteen years as a form of spiritual discipline. It is the rare morning where I am not able to journal. It has been an enormous benefit in my life.
For those interested in following a spiritual approach, many find the formula ACTS (Adoration (praise and worshiping God), Confession (reflection on your fewer than perfect actions), Thanksgiving (gratitude for all your blessings), and finally Supplication (Prayer requests). It is a strategy that has helped many through both good times and bad.