How Two Minutes of Writing Can Cure the Common Cold

12 Feb
English: taking blood pressure in PE

Image via Wikipedia

Most teachers know that writing can make you more thoughtful, insightful, and logical. But did you know that it can make you healthier?

In particular, writing about a trauma–even just once, for only two minutes–has been proven to significantly improve long-term health (Burton and King, 2007). When researchers asked participants to write about a traumatic experience, compared to a control group, who wrote on an unrelated topic, the participants who wrote about trauma demonstrated significantly better health over the course of the next year, ranging from fewer overall doctor’s visits to lower blood pressure.

How to use this in your classroom:

If you use journals in your class, a great journal topic could be: “Write about something very sad that happened to you” or “Write about a difficult time in your life.” If you don’t use journals, then consider using personal trauma as an essay topic when you teach essay structure. Most students leap at the chance to talk about difficult experiences, but if you meet with resistance, you might want to read them a student example like this one by Yusef Butler, an 8th-grade Deep student:

One night, it was I believe Fourth of July or two days after,
people was still poppin’ firecrackers. I looked out the window
and seen some boy poppin’ fire crackers with his mom and
his brother. Then like thirty minutes later I heard a pop, pop
then looked out the window to see whether the boy was still
out there with his mama but he wasn’t. So I was wondering
where the pops came from.

Then one of my friends came to the window and saw
something I didn’t. He noticed something by the tree.
He said, “Boy look at that dead horse by that tree.” But I
remembered that I saw some people arguing earlier. So across
the walkway a lady came out her house screaming. Then
we went outside to see what the thing was by the tree and it
was one of my older friends who was ’bout twenty-four. Shot
three times in his face, one in the chin and on both sides of
his face and he was still trying to breathe cause blood was
coming out his mouth and he was moving. He told me before
he don’t want to die but he was trying to hold on. His head
was swole like a fully grown watermelon, then I started crying
like I never did before cause I couldn’t believe he about
to die in my face. Then I realized he was dead.


2 Responses to “How Two Minutes of Writing Can Cure the Common Cold”

  1. Lacey Louwagie February 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    When I was in college, I did my thesis on the benefits of journaling, and I’ve never forgotten this — that people who write regularly have stronger immune systems and sleep better at night (which of course also contributes to stronger immune systems). I always stress this fact in the writing classes I teach — I think it’s so important for students of any age to know that writing DOES have its own intrinsic value, even if you’re not writing for publication or for anyone else’s eyes at all.

    • thatwritinglady February 29, 2012 at 9:28 am #

      Your thesis sounds fascinating. I’ve been thinking about asking my students to journal regularly at home-do you do that with your students? Any tips?

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