“I feel better for just having talked it through” is a phrase I often hear from my coaching clients. What I didn’t realise until very recently is that this figure of speech may literally be true.
I came across research by Pennebaker and Seagal who concluded from their 1999 study that “writing or talking about emotional topics influences immune function in beneficial ways”. Getting something off your chest can positively affect your immune system in ways that can be measured in real terms: fewer visits to the doctor or even in blood samples and cell growth.
The key seems to be that the process of converting emotions or even images into some form of structured story changes the way we think about the events that have happened. The act of creating a narrative helps us to make sense of and organise our responses into a coherent story.
Bottling up thoughts and feelings has always been regarded as ‘unhealthy’. Putting them into words seems to be just what the doctor ordered.