The researchers conducted three to five writing sessions in a controlled laboratory setting. The results showed positive impact on cancer patients in just one writing session, said study leader Nancy P Morgan. Previous researches had already suggested that expressive writing may enhance physical and psychological well-being of a person, Morgan said.
The study conducted by Morgan and her colleagues included a pre-writing survey, twenty minutes of expressive writing, a post-writing survey, and an optional follow-up survey that was completed by telephone 3 weeks later.
To analyse the impact of the writing exercise on patients, the researchers conducted initial content analyses of the compositions, examining each text for themes, words, and phrases indicative of the transformative nature of the cancer experience.
When people used a greater number of positive emotion words in their writing, they also reported more change in how the writing affected their thoughts and feelings about the illness, the researcher said.
Of the 63 texts, 60 contained evidence of transformation brought about by the cancer experience. Many of the changes expressed in the writing were positive and related to feelings about family, spirituality, work, and the future.
As one patient wrote, ''Don't get me wrong, cancer isn't a gift, it just showed me what the gifts in my life are.''