"A writer is someone who writes.” ~William Stafford
Life happens—to all of us. Upheavals touch every part of our lives, our health doesn’t affect just our bodies, we don’t just lose a job, and we don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—financially, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing can help us focus and organize these experiences.
Our minds are designed to try to make sense of the things that happen to us. When a traumatic event occurs or we undergo a major life transition our minds have to work overtime to try to process the experience. Thoughts about these events may keep us awake at night, distract us at work and even make us less connected with other people. Without some resolution, the echoes of these events can affect us all our lives.
Several years ago, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that asthma and arthritis patients showed a significant reduction of symptoms when they wrote about stressful experiences. The growing fields of both journal and poetry therapy hold much promise in the areas of personal development, healing, and growth.
When we can translate an experience into language we make the experience graspable. We may see improvements in what is called “working memory,” essentially our ability to think about more than one thing at a time. We may also find they’re better able to sleep. Our social connections may improve, partly because we have a greater ability to focus on someone other than ourselves. Standing back every now and then and evaluating where we are in life is really important.
When we can share our experiences in a safe, supportive environment, we realize even deeper benefits. We no longer endure in a vacuum, we become part of a community, supporting and being supported by others.