Authentic Expression Reduces Stress

Scientists now show that doing 15 minutes of free writing each day increases physical and emotional health, and that the words we use have an impact too.

James Pennebaker, in The Secret Life of Pronouns, shares 30 years of research showing how the words we use demonstrate our physical, mental and emotional health and also how changing our word choices alters our moods.

According to Pennebaker, keeping secrets about traumatic experiences and ordinary emotionally impacting events make people sick. Expressing and sharing with others what one experiences increase integration and reduce stress. And it turns out that simply doing free writing by oneself, such as writing in a journal, does this as well. Fifteen minutes of writing daily about emotional experiences causes improvements in health in just a few days!

Among Pennebaker’s recommendations for how to write about experiences to enhance emotional health are:

  • Choose authentic words for maximum impact.
  • Select words indicating causality (because, reason) and insight (understand, realize) to process, integrate and move forward.
  • Use pronouns that convey your awareness of other points of view (we, you, he, she, they, them) in addition to your own (I, me, myself).
  • Most importantly, listen honestly to your own emotions and discover what you authentically experience.

For more see James Pennebaker’s book Opening Up.