Summer Series: Separation and Divorce #2

I love sharing research that examines how writing your story can be beneficial to your health (or not). This week I'm sharing an article that looks at how writing affects your physical health. 

Journal Article: Bourassa et al. Impact of Narrative Expressive Writing on Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, and Blood Pressure After Marital Separation. Psychosom Med. 2017 Jul/Aug;79(6):697-705.

Participants: A group of 109 recently separated adults

Design: People were placed in one of the three groups below. They also underwent a bunch of cardiovascular (heart) tests during the months they were involved in the study. Three groups:

1. Traditional Expressive Writing: write about the emotions surrounding the separation
2. Narrative Expressive Writing: write your story about the separation
3. Control group: write about how you spend your time

Finding: People in the Narrative Expressive Writing group had lower heart rate and higher heart rate variability than people in the two other groups. Both of these are good things for your overall health. Blood pressure was not different among the groups. 

Takeaway: Writing your story after separation might help improve your physical health. 

Commentary: The study I shared last week found that writing your story could be bad for your emotional well-being in some cases. Well, some of those same people were found to have improvements in their physical health after writing their story. It's a little confusing. Should I write because I want to be healthy in my body or should I stay away from writing because it might be unhealthy for my mind? My take: If you are someone who is deep in a well of trying to find meaning from your separation, it might behoove you to hold off on writing. Otherwise, try it and see how it feels for you.
 

Don't have time to write? Create a writing ritual.

While I have always kept a journal, I decided in 2014 that I wanted to develop my writing style and eventually share my work. I also decided that in order to do so I needed to create a writing ritual that encouraged me to write. Every Friday morning I would go to a local coffee shop and set up my laptop. I had one hour. It took me weeks to write a single essay.

It was worth every minute. My heart would get heavy as the end of my hour was nearing. I would squeeze in a couple of last sentences and then drag my feet out to the parking lot to get home to help Curt with the kids. Writing filled a need in me. I felt deeply connected to this practice.

It wasn't until early 2016 that I launched Orchid Story as a blog and that was months before Orchid Story became a business. See what I'm trying to spell out for you here? It's ok to take things slow. It's ok if you start writing and don't share your work for years, if ever. It's ok if you can only squeeze in 15 minutes twice a week. 

What is most critical in my experience is that you create a ritual for yourself around writing. Rituals help us connect our outer lives to our inner lives. Rituals allow us to be intentional with our time and to create experiences that make us feel good and connected to who we are at our core. Rituals allow me to take ownership of my time, when it might otherwise pass by in a blur. 

If you have been wanting to write, but just can't figure out how to fit it into your days, my writing ritual worksheet is for you. If you have been wanting to write, but couldn't figure out how to start, my worksheet will help. It's a one pager, mostly questions with checkboxes to inspire you to start your writing practice. Why not decide that this is the summer that you will finally put pen to paper and get started?

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