5 Scientifically Verified Reasons You’ll Hate Yourself if You Stop Writing

The Surprising Health Benefits of Continuing in the Craft

So much of winning at the writing game can be summarized succinctly by the immemorial words of Dory in Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming.

Image result for just keep swimming gif

Easier said than done, for sure. But it’s important because really the only way to lose is to stop writing. To give up. To abandon your dream of that book or that blog or those articles.

As I’ve coached writers and helped them “just keep swimming,” I’ve found that a little encouragement goes a long way. Sometimes we just need someone to say , “Hey, look. You’re doing all right. You’re doing really well, in fact. Keep on. You’re making progress even if it feels slow at times.”

With this in mind I’d like to offer five scientifically verified reasons writing is really good for you—for your overall health and well-being. In each case I’ll include the reason and a link to a relevant study or article to back it up.

Do These Benefits Apply to Me?

One caveat: The studies I cite below are about expressive writing or journaling, and that’s understandable when you think about it. If you’re a researcher who wants to study the possible health benefits of writing, you need all your study participants to be engaged in the same kind of writing for your research to mean anything. And it’s a lot easier to get a bunch of random folks to journal than it is to find and conduct research with a sample of, say, memoirists.

But here’s the thing. With the exception of purely utilitarian writing, such as scratching out a shopping list or shooting off a business-related email, just about all writing includes at least some self-expression. Memoir obviously does. But even penning a self-help or business book involves wrestling with the interior life and drawing on personal experiences, be they traumatic or positive.

It would be hasty to assume, therefore, that if your writing is not directly about your life, it therefore does not offer these benefits. Far more likely as long as your writing is genuine and comes from a sense of purpose that these benefits do indeed apply to you to one degree or another.

Ready to find out some powerful reasons to keep writing? Here goes.

1. Writing Strengthens Your Immune System

Several studies have shown that when we write, particularly about stressful events in our lives, our immune system experiences a boost. To read more on this from the American Psychological Association, click here.

2. Writing Improves Your Physical Health

Want to go to the doctor less often? Write! In one study, referenced here, researchers found that participants who write about emotional experiences “reported significant benefits in both objectively assessed and self-reported physical health.”

Courtesy of Unsplash

3. Writing Reduces Stress

Want to manage your anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with feelings of depression. Keep writing! This article from the University of Rochester Medical Center, which is specifically about journaling, points to the numerous mental health benefits of writing.

4. Writing Helps You Sleep Better

In this study college students wrote letters to socially significant people in their lives about something helpful or harmful the recipient had done for or against them. One of the most remarkable outcomes was better quality sleep and greater sleep duration!

5. Writing Can Make You Happier

This study, in which one group of people wrote about negative experiences and another group wrote about positive experiences, concluded that both groups experienced an upswing in their moods.

Want some help customizing a writing process for yourself that optimizes your creativity and helps you develop a strong writing habit? I’ve designed a worksheet titled “My Writing Process” to help. To download it, click here.

Question: Which one of these benefits to writing do you need most right now? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Danie J Botha

    If only it was that easy, Dory! Yip, keep talking—I mean, swimming… little blue fish.
    Indeed five essential aspects of wellbeing that writing influences—immunity, physical health, sleep, stress & happiness.
    The message therefore one of “keep writing,” things will work out for the better.
    Reflecting on my writing path of the past three years, I have discovered the dramatic positive, but also negative impact, writing has on those five elements.
    Writing usually is my saving grace. But, then again, plunges me into valleys of despair.
    Healthy writing habits and discipline plays a big role, but often, when marketing fumbles and a launch underperforms, and the story stalls, sleep gets fragmented, stress goes up, immunity goes down and overall health plummets.
    Having said that, I’m also learning from established writers/authors that sticking to a disciplined writing program, which includes provision for marketing-time, time on social media, plus regular exercise, make it possible to more often reap the plus (the positive) benefits.
    Thanks, Chad! You got me thinking!

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  • Thank you for this post, Chad! I knew there were emotional benefits to writing, but had no idea of these physical benefits. Great reason to keep at it! I do believe a writer’s greatest fear is not stepping out and sharing our writing, but rather stepping away and abandoning it altogether. Mentors like you who pour into writers take on the role of life-preserver to the swimmers. Thanks again!

    • Chad R. Allen

      You’re welcome, Doris, and thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

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  • So the long and short of it, “Don’t be a hater, be a writer!” I am swimming Chad. Thanks for the post.

    • Chad R. Allen

      And you’re doing a wonderful job, Christonya. Keep on swimming!

  • David Sanford

    Great article. Terrible headline! I happen to like myself, but in the U.S. that’s an anomaly. The last thing most people need to hear are more reasons to hate themselves. Yes, yes, the headline is “proven” to increase traffic to your blog. Still, please, change it!

    • Chad R. Allen

      So funny. I had just been talking about headlines with Cary Nieuwhof, who as you know has been very successful, and he said all his top posts went negative. This was an experiment in that direction. I think I’ll keep it if for no other reason to see how many people visit it vs. others, but thanks for so passionately giving me your feedback!

  • Angie Davis Warren

    I love this, I had no idea that writing could boost immunity, help with stress, etc. I love reading the science behind this thing I can’t seem to stop doing.

    • Chad R. Allen

      Fabulous!

  • Love the idea of “just keep swimming.” Years ago I had a fortune cookie that said “be persistent and you will win.” I carried it in my wallet for years to remind myself to keep going even when I want to give up.

    • Chad R. Allen

      “Be persistent and you will win” is also sage advice!