Last time we talked about exercise and how it can improve your breathing and your overall wellness. Today we're going to talk about another thing you can do to improve your health and wellbeing with COPD - journaling. Now, you might be thinking, "Journaling is fine for people who like to write, but there's no way that just writing can improve my health."
Well, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, some patients can improve by simply writing about their illness and other stressful issues. This study, done at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, revealed that, "Writing about traumatic life experiences helps patients suffering from asthma or rheumatoid arthritis improve their health." Although the study was done with patients who have arthritis and asthma and you have COPD, I think we can learn something from this that might help you feel better and breathe easier.
Here's how the study worked. Researcher Joshua Smyth and his colleagues in Stony Brook's psychiatry department separated a group of 112 asthma and arthritis patients and asked them to spend 20 minutes daily over three days writing either about their most stressful life events or about such neutral fare as their daily schedule. Those with arthritis who wrote about their trauma reported a 28% reduction in disease severity within four months, while the control group showed no change. Asthmatics who wrote about their trauma showed a 19% increase in lung function against no change in the control group.
Though many questions remain regarding the study, the data is considered "clinically relevant," certainly enough to suggest that psychological events impact medical events. Stress and stress relief are likely contributory to disease.
The study concluded, "Journal writing, which chronicles experiences of anxiety and disquietude, can serve as a vehicle for the expression of negative emotion. Assuming a physical-psychological connection, the release of negative emotion has a positive influence on physical well-being." The report also noted, "We're not telling people to throw away their medicines, but what this study tells us is that we need to pay attention to psychological factors when we are talking about the treatment of chronic illness."
So, this is all well and good, but do you have to write about how traumatic it is to live with your disease in order for journaling to do you any good? As a writer, I believe that journaling can be helpful - and healthful - simply by doing it.
A very unscientific study (that would be me listening carefully to people living successfully with COPD over many years) shows that people who keep some kind of record about their life and care with COPD fair better. I've discovered that keeping records - even if it is just recording neutral facts - can help pulmonary patients feel more in control of their disease, and their lives. In addition, it gives them more opportunities to express their feelings through journaling.