Science suggests 10 to 15-minute writing exercises can boost body image, aid in sleep and even get you a job.
Putting pen to paper can put your body and mind on the ‘write’ track.
Taking just 15 minutes to complete writing exercises about self compassion can increase women’s body image, according to a new Northwestern University study. The three-part study tested the effects of writing exercises on the body satisfaction of college women: 151 college-age women were asked to write a compassionate letter to themselves; 242 were asked to write a similar letter, but from the perspective of a close friend; and 1,158 sorority women wrote letters directed at their own bodies, showing gratitude for what their bodies can do.
And all parts of the study found that writing self-love letters increased body satisfaction among participants.
“We found that spending just 15 minutes writing and reviewing one of three specific types of letters to oneself can significantly increase women’s body satisfaction — at least short-term,” Northwestern professor Renee Engeln, author of “Beauty Sick,” said in her report.
“The letters women in the study wrote were astounding. They were moving and inspirational, several brought tears to our eyes,” Engeln added. “Many participants asked if they could take a copy of their letter home with them. It seems that even women who struggle with body image can practice a kinder, gentler way of thinking about their body. They just might need a framework to help guide them.”
Previous research has also suggested that writing has a positive impact on mental health, stress, and even how the body functions. Here are four other surprising ways that writing for a few minutes each day can make your life better:
It can help you fall asleep faster. A recent Baylor University study found that writing down a to-do list for the next day, right before you go to bed, can help you fall asleep 10 minutes faster, which is similar to what some sleep medications have been shown to do in clinical studies.
“We’ve known for a few years now that the act of writing helps to decrease ‘cognitive arousal’ and worry,” Dr. Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, previously told Moneyish. “So we started this research with patients with anxiety disorders, and had them write everything they’re anxious about. It helped!”
It can reduce stress and help to overcome failure. A recent Rutgers study also found that keeping a journal about past failures can help you face your next challenge with less stress and a higher chance of success. Researchers reported that those who wrote about failures from the previous week had lower stress levels and did better on future tasks than those who did not jot down their losses.
“These findings indicate that writing and thinking critically about a past failure can prepare an individual both physiologically and cognitively for new challenges,” wrote study author Brynne DiMenichi, a doctoral candidate from Rutgers University-Newark.
It can help you get a job. A 2017 study of 63 recently unemployed people who were told to write down their emotions about their job loss found that they were 33% more likely to be hired again than those who did not write through their unemployment experience.
The study published in the Academy of Management Journal followed engineers after they were fired from their jobs, and found that 52% of those who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about the situation were reemployed, compared to 19% of those who did not write at all, or who wrote about different topics.
It can help to heal your body faster. Another study published in Psychosomatic Medicine has suggested that expressive writing can help your body heal faster from a medical procedure. The study found that of the 49 adults aged 64 to 97 that had a biopsy done, more than three in four (76%) of those who did expressive writing for 20 minutes a day, three days a week for two weeks had fully healed in 11 days, while only 42% of those who only wrote about daily activities were fully recovered.
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