Seven years ago, when I started blogging, my husband and I were preparing to spend a year teaching English in Japan. Following Augustine was born to share that experience with friends and family back home in Canada. I’ve always enjoyed writing so it was no surprise to me that when the year came to an end, I’d fallen in love with blogging and I wasn’t ready to let it go.
Over the years that followed, my blog became an eclectic collection of posts on a wide variety of topics including faith, family, and travel with a bit of food, fashion, fitness and even history thrown in. In essence, it chronicled our life and interests as an active retired couple.
Then came cancer!
When my first cancer was diagnosed a year and a half ago, the blog became an avenue for sharing vital information about my health with concerned friends and family around the world. I soon learned that it had an added benefit. As I dealt with the diagnosis of a second unrelated cancer, surgery, radiation, multiple tests and scans, new treatments, a clinical trial, and the emotional ups and downs that accompanied them all, I found that writing about the journey helped me process what was going on. It seemed that blogging was good for my mental health.
Now I’ve discovered that there’s actually scientific evidence to support that! Studies have shown that expressive writing leads to physical and mental health benefits such as long-term improvement in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. People with asthma who write have been shown to have fewer attacks than those who don’t and cancer patients who write tend to have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.
So what is it about writing that makes it so good for us?
Apparently, the act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. It can help them find meaning in a stressful event, manage their emotions better, talk to other people about the situation more easily and reach out for support more willingly. Instead of brooding or obsessing over a diagnosis or a catastrophic event, they are able to focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health goes up.
Remarkably, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of a four-month study was enough to make a difference. That was good news to me. Though I try to blog more often than that, I’ve never had any desire to post every day. I’ve seen too many daily bloggers burn brightly for a short period of time then flicker and burn out. I try to post at least once a week but I’ve even fallen short of that lately.
Cancer is only one of the topics that I continue to write about. Blogging will never be a cure but it’s nice to know that really is good for my health!