Secret-keeping Affects Your Health

Keeping painful secrets, stuffing embarrassing memories, or hiding certain worries or fears, even from ourselves, are what many of us do. Science shows us that when we do this, we are putting our physical and mental health at risk. People suffering from disorders like IBS often experience patterns of emotional avoidance that can make it difficult to release painful secrets even when one is ready to let go. Expressing what we carry hidden in our hearts and minds can also release what we carry in our guts - and journaling can help in that effort. Several thousand years of human history show that we long ago recognized the healing benefit of sharing our pain with others, whether through intimate conversations with a spouse, a close friend, or even with a relative stranger. The act of disclosing what hurts is a direct path to healing. The good news is that there are many channels we can use to do that disclosing.

Tears are words that need to be written.

- Paulo Coelho

The Biochemistry of Writing

Keeping a journal in which you express what you feel about people, events, and circumstances in your life is a powerful and portable method for discharging the emotional distress associated with those circumstances. Expressing yourself in this way changes your physiology. When you appreciate that every thought and every emotion has a specific chemical signature, you can recognize the chemical link between your mind and your body, including your guts. So, when you release an emotionally painful memory or worrisome concern, you are actually changing your biochemistry! And, since no organ system in the body is more closely linked to your gut’s “second brain,” the benefits of learning to “let go” are often felt first in the gut. Moreover, because of the connections between your gut and your immune and nervous systems (your gut-brain-mind axis), what changes in the gut rapidly impacts these other core body systems in ways that increase digestive wellness and improve overall health levels.

Tips To Get Started

Drawing on important research work begun more than 30 years ago, the following journal practice has shown positive and lasting benefits for sufferers of a variety of physical health challenges.

1. For 10-15 minutes a day each day for one week, write down the thoughts and feelings that you have about an event from your past (or that are still present) that troubled (or troubles) you and touches you deeply.

2. If appropriate, the event should be something you haven’t spoken to others about in great detail.

3. In your writing, write about what happened, what you felt about it then, and how you feel about it today.

4. Don’t censor what you write. This practice isn’t about getting the details right; it is about getting the lingering toxic effects out!

As simple as this sounds, the surprising truth is that the results can be powerful, especially when you combine this practice with other gut-healthy practices. And, if you do find yourself already feeling better, then by all means, keep the practice going! Happy and healing writing...