How Writing Heals – Scientific Proof

those of you who write because it makes you feel better, Brenda Stockdale,
Author of You Can Beat the Odds,  helps to understand how. “The choices we make
and the interpretation we assign events can influence physiological outcomes,”  Director
of Mind-Body Medicine for the Georgia Cancer Treatment Center, Stockdale says, “Two
specific traits, purpose and passion, cause the white blood cells to act
differently.”  They strengthen the immune
system.  Her work gives scientific credibility
to what writers already know intuitively about the practice of writing –
writing, especially during difficult times, can help us heal. 

cites a Center for Disease Control study of 440,000 patients suffering from
obesity.  The study, which began in the
1970’s, found a link between stress in early childhood, like sex abuse or
violence, with disease as an adult.  In a
follow up study of these patients, researchers noted a 35% decline in doctor’s
office visits in the year following the disclosure of the trauma.  Suppressing emotions can cause harm to the
body, Stockdale says.  “Labeling emotions
helps the physiology relax.  You don’t
need to fix it.  Just acknowledge
it.  Link feelings to events,” she
advises.  “But be warned about only
writing about happy or terrible stuff.”  She
suggests we follow Anne Sexton’s advice and, “Put your ear close to your soul
and listen hard.” By embracing the full range of emotions and finding balance
in writing about them, we’re moving in the right direction to keep the body,
mind and spirit in a healthy equilibrium. 

experienced the power of words first hand when she lost two-thirds of her blood
in what she describes as a “freak medical accident.”  During that time she felt too weak to write,
but reveled in hearing poetry read to her. 
Her father read, Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” as she lay in a hospital
bed unsure about whether she would survive or not..  The phrase, “If you can treat triumph and
disaster – these two imposters just the same…” gave her courage and inspiration
and she feels it contributed to her recovery. 
Stockdale who also facilitates national retreats for people with
life-challenging illnesses, notes a tight connection between self-worth and
survival.  “The greatest drug we have is
the will to live.”   For more on Brenda
Stockdale see her website at:

Debra Moffitt-Leslie, October 2009,


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