Blog A Day Keeps Doctor Away

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It is often said that maintaining a personal dairy always helps. It is therapeutic and one’s conscious personal feelings, thoughts and expressions which are hard to express for an individual, find their expression on paper. It is an effective tool to combat stress and has other psychological benefits as well. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the Oncologist reports that the patients who indulge in expressive writing before undergoing surgery feel better and healthier as compared to the patients who do not express themselves on paper.

The explosion of blogs, the online form of expressive writing, has enthused researchers to further explore the neurological underpinnings at play. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital – the Placebo Theory could be an explanation. Humans have a wide variety of pain-related behaviour and being social creatures, complaining and cribbing socially can act as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. In the same way, blogging about personal experiences of stressful situations can act as a catharsis. Apart from this theory, there are several other scientific theories which might explain the urge to blog. Scientists’ understanding of the neurological functions which lend expressive writing a certain therapeutic value remain speculative. The difficulty arises due to the fact that the part of brain which is active during the process lies deep inside. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that the brain lights up differently before, during and after writing. But scientists remain skeptical about the value of such images because they are hard to duplicate and quantify. Various scientists and psychologists are committed to unravel the mystery mechanism. Psychologist and neuroscientist Richard Lane at the University of Arizona is striving to make brain-imaging techniques useful by using those techniques to study the neuroanatomy of emotions and their expressions. Nancy Morgan, lead author of the Oncologist study, is planning to conduct larger community-based as well as clinical trials of expressive writing.

While the search for the reason behind the mechanism is on, blogs are offering solace much like the Ayurveda and Yoga (looked upon as alternative methods of healing). The simple activity of writing whatever one feels is gaining popularity as it is straight forward, relieves the mind instantly and supports the formal treatment in its own mysterious way. Several hospitals in the United States have introduced patient-authored blogs on their websites. The online form of the bedside journal is more effective because it connects people who are receptive to the thoughts and feelings of the author and who are probably facing similar situations. A virtual communication of ideas and feelings is a lot easier than the conventional forms of personal communication. Human beings are social animals and expressing forms such a crucial part of the human system that an easier way of communicating turbulent feelings provides immense solace to the mind and body.

So, even if you are not in a hospital or suffering from any ailment, it is always better to express yourself by writing down what you feel. Keep a personal journal, or better yet, start blogging!

Himadri Agarwal

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