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J Clin Psychol. 1999 Oct;55(10):1243-54.

Forming a story: the health benefits of narrative.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 78712, USA. Pennebaker@psy.utexas.edu

Abstract

Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way for as little as 15 minutes over the course of three days brings about improvements in mental and physical health. This finding has been replicated across age, gender, culture, social class, and personality type. Using a text-analysis computer program, it was discovered that those who benefit maximally from writing tend to use a high number of positive-emotion words, a moderate amount of negative-emotion words, and increase their use of cognitive words over the days of writing. These findings suggest that the formation of a narrative is critical and is an indicator of good mental and physical health. Ongoing studies suggest that writing serves the function of organizing complex emotional experiences. Implications for these findings for psychotherapy are briefly discussed.

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