YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve heard that words can hurtÃ¢â‚¬”but can they heal you, too? Writing down your thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event can actually speed up your healing time from future injuries, according to a recent study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
In a small study of older adults, people wrote about an upsetting life event for 20 minutes a day for three days (this was considered an expressive writing exercise). Meanwhile, a control group just wrote about their daily activities. Two weeks later, the participants had skin biopsies taken, which left a small wound. Another week after that, the researchers started checking the wounds every few days to see how participants were healing. Surprisingly, 76 percent of the people who did the expressive writing exercise were fully healed by day 11, while only 42 percent of people in the other group were injury-free at that point.
So how did a simple writing task help their bodies heal fasterÃ¢â‚¬”even weeks after theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d completed it?Ã‚Â Researchers donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know exactly, but there are a few theories. Ã¢â‚¬Å“One is that it can reduce stress,Ã¢â‚¬Â says study co-author Elizabeth Broadbent, PhD, senior lecturer in health psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Because we know stress is related to poorer healing, by reducing stress it could improve healing.Ã¢â‚¬Â Essentially, the expressive writing exercise is designed to help you process a difficult event so that you have more control over it, which should curb your anxiety. Another theory is that reducing stress can lead to better sleep, which also revs up your bodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ability to heal.
Unfortunately, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly prepare for most injuries by knocking out an expressive writing task two weeks beforehand. But you can try to cut down on stress and aim to get a ton of sleep to help your body heal once youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re hurt. And if you feel you have something troubling you that might be stressing you out and causing you to lose sleep, try writing about it for 20 minutes a day for three days, suggests Broadbent. That way, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be in better shape the next time you get hurt.
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