Going through divorce is tough, but writing the story in a journal may help mend a broken heart. Researchers found good news in a study of the recently divorced who were asked to tell the story of their relationships in a narrative framework with a beginning, middle and end. Study participants who wrote about their emotions in this framework showed improved health not only in lower heart rates but also in greater heart beat variability, which also reflects the body’s ability to adapt.
They were among 109 men or women who had separated or divorced from their partners on average three months ago. Researchers divided participants into three groups and assessed their physical and psychological health before the study and at two follow-up visits.
One group that did not show health improvement was asked to write deep feelings about their relationships and experiences. Those in a third group who wrote non-emotionally to describe their daily activities also did not show improved health. All wrote 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days.
“To be able to create a story in a structured way – not just re-experience your emotions but make meaning out of them – allows you to process those feelings in a more physiologically adaptive way,” said study author Kyle Bourassa from the University of Arizona.