Writing your way to happiness

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a New York Times article headlined “Writing your way to happiness” by Tara Parker Pope. 

Can writing actually make you happier about your life — especially when it’s been difficult or challenging? Turns out it can, at least according to researchers.

Two of my readers recently emailed to me a fascinating New York Times piece, “Writing Your Way to Happiness,” suggesting that writing about oneself and personal experiences can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.

Much of the research has focused on college students, of course – probably because it’s easy to find willing subjects on campuses. But other research has also looked at the experience of married couples dealing with conflict and workers trying to add more exercise to their life.

In one case, a woman wrote that she wanted to improve her fitness, but as the breadwinner for her family she had to work long hours and  felt guilty about spending time away from her children. Then the article writer, Tara Parker Pope continued…

With prompting, she eventually wrote a new story, based on the same facts but with a more honest assessment of why she doesn’t exercise. “The truth is,” she wrote, “I don’t like to exercise, and I don’t value my health enough. I use work and the kids to excuse my lack of fitness.”

The whole idea of using writing to change our lives fascinates me. This strikes me as a powerful way in which we can all reclaim — and reimagine — the parts of our lives that aren’t working so well.

Writing is powerful. And — if we use it the right way — very positive.

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