Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory. Tara Parker-Pope, NY Times, Writing Your Way to Happiness
I’m happy that Tara Parker-Pope wrote Writing Your Way to Happiness. And while I’m also glad/relieved/intrigued that psychologists and scientists are finally studying the positive impact journaling and writing can have on emotional health, I’m also surprised that this is news.
We need studies to validate a communication form that has been around, in various forms, for thousands of years? Seriously?
Communicating with one another – storytelling – is an ancient form of expression that is manifested in a variety of ways. Petroglyphs are a form of storytelling and hardly a modern one. So, too, hieroglyphs. Art, sculpture, painting, music, dance, theatre…these are all forms of storytelling and are part of how we share our individual experiences of life with other people. And they’ve each been around for a very, very long time.
Consider the flute. One of which, made out of vulture bone, was found a few years ago in a cave in Southern Germany. It is quite possibly 40,000 years old.
The ancient flutes are evidence for an early musical tradition that likely helped modern humans communicate and form tighter social bonds, the researchers argue. James Owen – National Geographic News (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/06/090624-bone-flute-oldest-instrument.html)
Consider dance. There are rock paintings that suggest the earliest forms of “dance” expression go back 9,000 years. And virtually every culture has some form of dance that defines it, whether it be belly dancing, ballet or voguing.
And consider art in all it’s forms. We are used to young children making “art,” like their cave living ancestors did so long ago, that their parents can proudly display on the refrigerator, or turn into holiday cards, or frame permanently for the walls of their homes. Although there might be children who do not create art, I personally don’t know any. But I digress…
We are used to parents wanting their children to learn a musical instrument or to sing, or dance, or take art classes – because they want them to be well-rounded, educated, cultured, interesting.
But there is an unfortunate tendency to dismiss the value of any kind of artistic expression if it isn’t turned into a career or one’s profession beyond a certain age. We seem to have forgotten that it is natural – and human – to want to express oneself artistically, to want to share stories, and that teaching children to write…to make art, to play music, to dance, to perform…has a value beyond making a living off of any artistic talent that child may have.
Every artist that I know says writing, painting, playing music, dancing…makes them, well, happy, makes them, well, feel better, makes them, well, better able to get through life.
Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. Tara Parker-Pope, the NY Times
Last year there was a wonderful series narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. One episode featured a story about Enheduanna, a Sumerian Princess and high priestess of Nanna, who was the daughter of King Sargon the Great.
Enheduanna lived and wrote around 2300 B.C.E. She is important because historians know her to be the first writer/poet/wordsmith that history knows by name. She is actually known by her name because Enheduanna actually thought to _sign_ her name to her hymns and poems. It mattered to her that others would know who the author was.
If that isn’t a desire to communicate, in words, like paintings etched on rocks, beyond the span of one’s lifetime, then I don’t know what is. I would love to talk to Enheduanna and ask her if writing made her happy. I would think, being a high priestess, that her answer would be “Yes! Of course!”
But it doesn’t really matter. Because I’m happy just knowing she was alive. And that the first “author” was a woman? Well, that makes me particularly happy.
January 26, 2015 at 9:43 pm
This was a great article. I read it this morning. The studies are compelling
January 26, 2015 at 9:44 pm
They are indeed Jack C Crawford. Commence with the writing already…
January 26, 2015 at 9:48 pm
January 26, 2015 at 9:54 pm
Nowadays, it seems, we need studies even to figure out that babies feel better in their mothers’ arms than in their cribs.
January 26, 2015 at 9:56 pm
Hi Lena Levin that is so true. It’s insane. What is going on? Have we lost all connection to our inner selves? Our instincts? We can’t find our way out of the forrest without studies telling us which way to go. It’s crazy.
January 26, 2015 at 10:05 pm
Yes, I think we’ve lost some connectedness… in an attempt to control everything in our lives. It seems people are fascinated with quantitative measures for everything… (like “34% increase in happiness” etc.)
January 26, 2015 at 10:24 pm
Indeed Lena Levin. And did you read this one about sex? Frankly, I’d considered posting about that, but people lie about three things: their age, how much money they make…and sex!
I’ve copied it here for you, because it’s actually sort of in-depth and interesting:
January 26, 2015 at 10:49 pm
Giselle Minoli — a fascinating read.
January 27, 2015 at 2:28 am
It was, wasn’t it Lena Levin? And also sad, funny, distressing…and perhaps not at all surprising:
Sex can be quite fun. Why do we have so little of it? Google searches suggest one predominant reason: enormous anxiety, with much of it misplaced.
January 27, 2015 at 2:42 am
Well, I think this conclusion isn’t quite warranted — obviously, worries about something is one of the major reasons people turn to Google in general. So anxiety is very likely to figure is one of the major reasons for anything, if one relies exclusively on Google search data… If people are just tired, or overwhelmed, for example, or completely immersed in something else (like a work project), these reasons will be invisible for this kind of data gathering.
On the other hand, I am not sure that not enough sex is exactly the major problem of our society (maybe I am just too old… 🙂
January 27, 2015 at 8:17 am
I call that “Cioran Syndrome”.
January 27, 2015 at 10:10 am
I could not agree more.It is indeed a healing process.Writing is therapeutical wheter you write about yourself or about the others as well. The whole writing process requires an inner search that often removes “old files” inside your brain and cleans them from the dust of time giving them new life and sometimes wings as well. I just published my first book #codognecuoreveneto ( did you get the copy in Pdf I sent you?). It took me almost three years…but at the end the inital dream has turned into something real, touchable readable.
I may have lost several hours of sleep in the process but I made a lot of new experiences and I learned a lot about people and myself as well. It us true Giselle, a book changes who writes it forever. I know that my book will not sell hundred of thousand copies but here, in the area where I live is really appreciated and this is the best reward I can have. I feel different now.I realize that I placed a small frame into the movie of my life, small or big it doesn’t matter. Like in photography (my big love along with writing) it’ s so great a feeling to know that somehow I sealed a small frame of time that will stay and will survive me. In the colorful rainbow of life I have a tiny droplet that will make me feel like I own the sky.. and that is very very healing to me….
January 27, 2015 at 2:31 pm
Morning, everyone…a wee tad of a connectivity problem this morning. I had dinner last night with a friend who is a psychologist…she’s reading a book called The Second Half of Life, which is about making the second half of life better than the first. When she was talking about it, with reference to herself, she mentioned the freedom of creating and doing not out of the pressure to make money and craft a career, but out of something else, something deeper. Yes, we all have to continue to pay the bills as long as we’re alive, don’t we?
But, having spent my life in the arts, while even the artists I know clearly fret about the reality of paying the bills, one of the things they universally seem to be “free” of is the notion of “retiring.”
They simply create until they can no longer…for physical reasons or mental reasons or whatever. I don’t think people retire from their own creativity. There is so much life energy in nurturing it…why would one want to?
Randy Resnick …”are often the seekers of money and power.” Indeed. I have often observed that people who have no creative ability want to suck it out of people who do…they want to make money off of it…and they often believe that if it weren’t for their money and business skills then the creative person would nothing. I believe this is called jealousy? Sycophancy?
On the other hand, those money makers who have business talents and see themselves as partners with creative people have a definitive art to what they do. There are myriad brilliant combinations of agents/writers, producers/filmmakers, financial backers/designers…and it is that very combination which works in the end.
January 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm
Relu Dumitru Emil Cioran? If so then it’s a “good” syndrome to have, Yes? Or enlighten me if not… 😉
January 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm
pio dal cin I am so glad for you that in the publishing of your first book you have had the personal experience you describe. I wouldn’t make any predictions, if I were you, about what its potential for selling, in Italy or anywhere else is. This is something that is still unfolding for writers and I think a book such as yours has a long life in front of it…so don’t bracket it too much, or make predictions for it. Let it unfold over time.
And, Yes, I did get it and…apologies, pio dal cin. I am still in major rehabilitation mode and am very behind on reading, on communicating on virtually everything. I am rewriting my own book after many months of forced absence from it so my time is terribly limited (thus my infrequent postings on G+…mea culpa). But I will get to it, I promise you and am tremendously grateful to you for including me.
Now, if I am very lucky…I will be able to travel to Italy this year, but at the moment that is in the “dream” category! 😉
I think self-publishing for a book such as yours in brilliant. I know that Cheryl Machat Dorskind has done the same with her own book on photographing children naturally.
January 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm
Hello Giselle Minoli and your google friends Jack C Crawford et al… I had read this article and agree with much of the premises. Personally, when I write and get “it” right, there is a feeling of satisfaction that no other art form I am involved with (photography, painting, drawing, piano) feels as rewarding, self- fulfilling – in a non egocentric way, rather, a confirmation that I have found my rhythm. I bet that is why you love flying my dear friend Giselle.
Good luck with your book pio dal cin. As Giselle mentioned, I too have had my first ebook published (Photographing Children Naturally) and learning the distribution avenues as a self publisher, and will have the book on iBooks soon, hopefully by Valentines Day – a heartfelt present to myself.
Thanks for posting this Giselle. As an educator, I am especially interested in the section of the article that discusses how journaling can impact student’s self esteem and success. “..In another study, Stanford researchers focused on African-American students who were struggling to adjust to college. Some of the students were asked to create an essay or video talking about college life to be seen by future students. The study found that the students who took part in the writing or video received better grades in the ensuing months than those in a control group.”
January 27, 2015 at 5:36 pm
Hi Cheryl Machat Dorskind. That sense of self-satisfaction is indeed why I fly. But it goes deeper than that. The search for the right word, striving to punctuate a sentence, not always properly per se, but in a way that conveys a more subtle meaning, the meter, cadence, tempo, feel of writing…it is very much like precision flying…having to get everything just right so that a take off is like an inhale and a landing is like an exhale, so that a turn is smooth, so that when it is bumpy and turbulent you can handle it anyway.
Flying brings me closer to the cosmos, closer to myself, closer to the magic of being alive. Closer to my own beating heart. It is an incredible gift. An incredible feeling.
So is writing.
So is making art!
Children should be allowed and taught to write…to create.
January 27, 2015 at 6:45 pm
Oui ! It’s About Emil Cioran !
He said “Writing saved my life. Writing was during all my life, a cure, a therapy….”
(“Cioran Syndrome” its not a mainstream locution, it’s an ad-hoc invention).
Thank You !
January 28, 2015 at 2:16 pm
thanks Giselle Minoli I really hope you recover in time for your next trip to Italy.No need for apologies Giselle. We are all busy and time on G+ and other social network is really like trying to take a vacation…. thanks for your kind words of support..you are as usual one on my online’s Angels
February 8, 2015 at 4:40 pm
Cioran? He was so pessimistic, nihilistic… Maybe he only supported to live, because he wrote? Aforisms, mainly ( maybe because he didn’t have a meaning in life, dreams…
I don’t understand Cioran in this context…
February 8, 2015 at 4:43 pm
Excuse me! Now I realised that I didn’t read Relu post…
I like writers like Cioran, Ionesco, although they are depressing…
February 8, 2015 at 5:01 pm
I think Ana Cristina Simões Vilar that the reference that Relu Dumitru was making was to Cioran’s appreciation for writing and what it meant to him…not to what his own writing was about or what his own philosophies were…I think that is what Relu meant. Yes? No?
February 8, 2015 at 5:08 pm
Yes. You are right. Cioran was speaking of writing as a therapy, in a more technical way. The contempt is not important here. To write gave him a monologue that was a conection to existence itself.