Divorce can take a heavy toll on people mentally and physically. The stress of a divorce can lead to all sorts of negative health effects in the short and long term. One recently-published study found evidence that writing about your divorce could reduce your risk of stress-related cardiovascular problems caused by the break-up.
The Importance of Creating a Structured Narrative
It's not just any type of writing that was found to have this effect, however. Specifically, it was narrative expressive writing. That's different than traditional expressive writing, where people pour out their emotions. Those who put their "divorce story" into a "coherent and organized narrative" showed an overall decrease in heart rate and an increase in heart rate variability. A higher HRV is actually a positive sign.
By contrast, those who were asked to write freely about the emotions they were feeling showed signs of increased stress. It was hypothesized that these participants were more likely to be thinking about their mood while they were writing.
According to one doctoral student in psychology who was involved in the study, "The results suggest that the ability to create a structured narrative -- not just re-experiencing emotions but making meaning out of them -- allows people to process their feelings in a more adaptive way, which may in turn help improve their cardiovascular health."
Avoiding Other Health Problems Associated with Divorce
Of course, heart rate is just one indicator of cardiovascular health and of overall physical health. People going through a break-up or any sort of stressful life change can experience a multitude of physical ailments and emotional distress. Too often, they eschew healthy eating, exercise or taking care of themselves in general.
However, it's important to be aware of what activities make you feel better both mentally and physically and gravitate toward those (unless, of course, they are unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking or eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting). Your family law attorney can likely recommend some support group or counseling resources in your area to help you deal with your divorce in a healthy, productive manner.
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