Getting a divorce can play havoc with your emotions, which can then undermine your physical health. Mind and body are very much tied together. Studies have shown that keeping a journal and writing about one’s feelings can improve our emotional state and even our physical health, including our heart health.
Writing helps us sort through our confused and/or negative feelings and lets us process them more successfully. When we journal about our feelings, we control our emotions instead of having them control us.
What A Study Has Revealed
A study at the University of Arizona studied 109 people (70 female and 39 males) who were undergoing a separation from their spouses. These participants were randomly sorted into three separate groups. One group did traditional expressive writing, which involves a normal essay style of expression. The second group conducted narrative expressive writing, which included creating a helpful, story-like narrative of the experience. The third group kept a daily log.
The first group was instructed to journal their deepest, most honest feelings. The second group was told to create a coherent narrative of the marriage in the form of a story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. The third group was told to record their activities of the day without emotions or judgments.
All participants will take a test for cardiovascular responses to stress prior to writing. They will subsequently take the test twice after the writing. The researcher found that eight months after the beginning of the study, the second group, which had created a narrative story, had a lower heart rate and had developed greater resilience to stress. The reason for this was partly because the writers were making sense of their feelings instead of simply re-experiencing them.
The Importance Of The Study
The result of this study is quite relevant to anyone seeking to overcome the stress and poor sleeping habits created by the separation process. According to one researcher, “The explicit instructions to create a narrative may provide a scaffolding for people who are going through this tough time.” Stated somewhat differently, the pen may truly be more powerful than the sword. There is power in putting words to paper in the right way.
One reason for this is that internalizing negative feelings can create health problems. Getting them “out in the open,” or on paper, can keep much of the divorce-related stress and anxiety at bay. The same researcher stated, “You grow through the process, not only because you have the chance to express yourself, but because you move forward within yourself as you write.”
The critical – and most helpful – aspect of putting your story on paper, with a beginning, middle, and end, is that it provides the writer with a sense of movement toward resolution. The end is in sight. More than that – much of it is controllable. Writing about the marriage allows the person to see a larger picture. It’s like arranging the pieces of a puzzle. On their own, the pieces are confusing. But as they fit together, the picture becomes clearer and clearer.
Another benefit of developing a clearer picture of the marriage is that it can influence current behavior and improve new and ongoing relationships. The more you learn about yourself, the easier the divorce process becomes.
Such narrative writing does not have to be long and complex. A mere 15 to 20 minutes a day can help the writer feel less stress and anxiety while getting divorced.
Writing the story of your divorce rather than just rehashing your feelings can have a positive effect on your heart health. Freeing your emotions is certainly more advisable than keeping them locked inside. The healing power of journaling a cohesive story moves your pain to an ending you can control. And with control, you gain back your emotional and physical strength.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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