The Power of the Pen: How to Boost Happiness, Health, and Productivity

I was sent this post about the power of expressive writing to improve productivity. For those who do not have the time to read it here are some of the amazing results.

Four months after a hundred senior engineers were laid off by a computer company, not a single one was reemployed. The engineers were then divided into three groups. In the control group, the engineers did nothing unusual. The remaining engineers were randomly assigned to a second control group, where they wrote about time management, or an expressive writing group, where they kept a journal about their deepest thoughts and feelings associated with the job loss.

Three months later, in the control groups, less than 5% of the engineers were reemployed. In the expressive writing group, more than 26% of the engineers were reemployed. Interestingly, expressive writing didn’t land the engineers any more interviews. It just increased the odds that they were hired when they did have an interview. Expressive writing affected the quality, not the quantity, of their job search. The engineers who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about losing their jobs reported feeling less anger and hostility toward their former employer. They also reported drinking less.

Eight months later, less than 19% of the engineers in the control groups were reemployed full-time, compared with more than 52% of the engineers in the expressive writing group.

However if you engage in the expressive writing process, it begins by making the situation worse!!! We have all had the advice that if you have had a stressful event to sit down and write about it. The hypothesis is that to suppress negative experiences is stressful, and to express them will lift the burden. Unfortunately this is not the case.

In another study a collection of adults that had a stressful experience were divided into two groups. In the control group, the adults wrote about everyday topics?they described their shoes, their living rooms, and a tree. In the treatment group, the adults wrote about the most traumatic experience of their lives. They expressed their deepest thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event. They wrote for 15 minutes a day over the course of four days. The results were totally unexpected. Writing about a traumatic experience made the participants worse off. They were unhappier and more distressed, and had higher blood pressure. The researchers had apparently discovered a foolproof method for causing depression.

The good news is after two weeks the results were reversed. It turns out expressing the traumatic event did improve their health; it just didn’t do so right away.

The other key finding of research in this area is that writing about traumatic events only improves health when people describe facts and feelings. The writers must involve their emotions. By putting their feelings into words, they can start making sense of a negative event. They come to understand it better, gain insight and perspective, and sometimes even find silver linings. Now that they have a coherent story about the negative event, it’s easier to summarize and move on. All this work is a terrific example of emotional intelligence in action.


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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

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