Therapeutic writing is a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing and processing the written word as therapy. Writing therapy posits that writing one’s thoughts gradually eases feelings of emotional trauma. In addition, the research demonstrated a decreased incidence of depression and anxiety among participants.
How Does Therapeutic Writing Help with Cancer?
Being given a cancer diagnosis is a traumatic and life changing event. It causes considerable stress to the patient, their family and friends. The patient enters a world that is foreign to them, living from test to test and through the long waits between visits. By writing down their feelings, the patient is given a way to express their feelings which might, under more ordinary conditions, be unspoken; repressed emotion creates stress in the body. By expressing feelings through the written word, the patient has a way to settle themselves and bring themselves into a more relaxed state, thereby optimizing the conditions for healing and enhancing the immune system’s functioning.
Research has shown that maintaining a gratitude journal can help patients more successfully live with cancer. Some of the many benefits of gratitude journaling include increased immune system functioning, higher levels of positive emotions, more joy, optimism and generosity, and fewer feelings of feeling alone and lonely. As it is human nature to dwell on the negative, keeping a gratitude journal at the end of the day has been shown to help people notice what is right, which builds inner resilience and strength to help them cope with difficulty and trauma in their lives.
Putting stress into words: Health, linguistic, and therapeutic implications ☆James W. Pennebaker; Behaviour Research and Therapy Volume 31, Issue 6, July 1993, Pages 539–548
Mastery or mystery? Therapeutic writing: A review of the literature, British Journal of Guidance & Counseling /abstract content Volume 29, Issue 3, 2001
Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing Karen A. Baikie, Kay Wilhelm Advances in Psychiatric Treatment Aug 2005, 11 (5) 338-346; DOI: 10.1192/apt.11.5.338