Happiness Hacks: The Write Way

“Happiness Hacks”  are quick and easy ways, based on scientific research, to lift your mood. We are compiling them into a book, but want to share them here with you.

“In the 1970s, a professor of psychology named James W. Pennebaker began experimenting with the effects that talking, confessing and self-understanding had on human well-being. Nearly 30 years later, he and his collaborator, Joshua M. Smyth, a professor of behavioral health and medicine, produced a body of research that found the emotionally connective and relieving effects of expressive writing to promote self-understanding, ease emotional pain and aid in physical healing.[viii] Since their book, Opening Up by Writing It Down, was published in 1997, their findings have been corroborated by other scientists’ independent studies around the world.”

The 2016 edition of their book explains that expressive writing:

•  Offers those who either don’t wish to talk about their feelings or have no one to confide in a way to unburden themselves

•  Reduces stress, fear and isolation

•  Boosts immune systems, optimism and sense of connectedness

•  Allows minds to process, organize and understand their experiences and feelings, enhancing learning and memory

“When expressing themselves in writing, people often report that they feel safe. They are actually creating an artifact—one that symbolizes some of their thoughts and feelings but is not them. With that safety, people often find they can put things down on the page that are often hard to speak about, and explore the deeper truths that we all carry with us.”

“The writing itself is a “made thing”—something with weight and substance. Therefore, it has a place in the world and you become identified with that creative construction. For many people, this gives them a way to bootstrap out of negativity and to start to identify themselves in a powerful and positive way.”


3 comments on “Happiness Hacks: The Write Way

  1. Another fascinating well researched tidbit. I wonder if the health benefits of written self expression differ from the health benefits of other kinds of artistic expression such as painting, music etc.?

    No doubt the act of putting pen to paper which forces a processing of ones thoughts in a tangible visual way is helpful. I remember reading something once about the difference in benefits between handwriting in ones journal versus typing in a computer and that the act of handwriting had an additional dimension to it.

    Interesting as always…


    Liked by 1 person

    • Ben, I, too, remember that there was a bigger benefit in writing by hand than on a typewriter. For years, when facilitating journal writing workshops, I told people to hand-write. I suspect that the muscles involved in each method access a slightly different neuro-network. Perhaps younger generations who have grown up with technology have strengthened brain areas that respond to the muscles involved in texting.

      When I was in school I wrote all my papers first by hand and then typed them. After years of blogging and writing directly on the computer I prefer that to handwriting. As for journaling, which is meant to help elicit the “emotional brain”, I suspect it might be changing with much of the population . . .

      Perhaps it’s a good thing that younger generation’s brains aren’t always hand-writing. Emotions are suppose to help us know how to respond to our world and circumstances. When we are driven by emotional memory it is rarely the best way to respond to the here and now.
      Thanks for your comment. It will spur me to do more research.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, writing helps, at least to understand both the challenging experience and your (my) part in it. Then you (I) can move on toward changing and becoming a truly healthier and happier person.

    I think nearly any creative outlet, including physical ones, can contribute.


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