To reduce stress and anxiety, write your happy thoughts down
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Writing about positive emotions may help to reduce stress and anxiety, according to our new study, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.Earlier research has also found that writing about negative emotions – getting things “off your chest” – can improve your mental health. And it seems to benefit physical health, too. Stress affects your physical health, so it is thought that improvements in mental well-being might stop people becoming physically unwell. Research has shown that writing about negative emotions can lead to fewer visits to the doctor, fewer self-reported symptoms of ill health, and less time off work due to ill health. Not many studies have investigated writing about positive emotions, but if writing about negative emotions helps people deal with their negative thoughts and feelings, then it’s possible that focusing on positive emotions might have a positive effect on people’s mental health. Earlier research has shown that writing about positive experiences for 20 minutes a day, for three consecutive days, improved people’s mood and led to fewer visits to the doctor. Even writing for as little as two minutes a day about a positive experience has been shown to reduce the number of health complaints that people report. While earlier studies showed that writing about positive experiences can improve your mood, we didn’t know what effect it might have on stress and anxiety.
Twenty minutes a dayFor our study, we investigated whether writing about a positive experience – which could include anything from being moved by a good book, painting or piece of music, to falling in love – could reduce stress, anxiety and common health complaints, such as a headache, back pain or coughs and colds. We also wanted to know if it would be helpful for all people, regardless of their level of distress.
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