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On Friday afternoon I met with Dr. Jamie Pennebaker at his office in the University Of Texas at Austin. Jamie is a pioneer in studying the psychological benefits of writing. Over the past three decades, his studies found that writing about feelings and thoughts has tremendous power, helping people improve their health and even accelerate the healing of injuries. His books describe these studies and their insights, and the software developed in his lab uses novel algorithms to analyze written text and induce information about personality and psychological state. You can try it out now:
It seems like the main thread that goes throughout the psychology research on writing is the benefit of putting thoughts and feelings into structure using language. This structure brings insights, helps bring things to resolution and closure, and sometimes results in concrete conclusions about actions that need to be taken. Writing things down, you may realize that there are many things you can do that are within your control and take responsibility and action.
We spoke for about 45 minutes about open-ended writing, and concluded that the key to flourishing lies within each person, and psychological exercises like writing simply unlock those great capabilities that we all have. Here is a short bit of our conversation: