Monday, January 28, 2019

Opening Up by Writing It Down

Amazon Buy Link
I picked this e-book up at the bitter end of 2018, a year that provided me with some shock-and-awe that knocked me on my ass*. Time passed without, I felt, significant recovery on my part (or any, as far as I could tell). As anyone who struggles with depression can probably attest, pulling oneself out from the mire can seem impossible. But then comes a moment in which we're able to bestir ourselves to try some small movement, and learning about this book** was one for me.

Expressing painful emotions is hard--yet it can actually improve our mental and physical health. This lucid, compassionate book has introduced tens of thousands of readers to expressive writing, a simple yet powerful self-help technique grounded in scientific research. Leading experts James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth describe how taking just a few minutes to write about deeply felt personal experiences or problems may help you: 
  • Heal old emotional wounds
  • Feel a greater sense of well-being
  • Decrease stress
  • Improve relationships
  • Boost your immune system 
Vivid stories and examples yield compelling insights into secrets, self-disclosure, and the hidden price of silence. The third edition incorporates findings from hundreds of recent studies and includes practical exercises to help you try expressive writing for yourself. It features extensive new information on specific health benefits, as well as when the approach may not be helpful.

My thoughts

I enjoyed this book, particularly the straightforward and matter-of-fact tone of the authors. So many self-help books pump themselves up with over-caffeinated, hyperbolic enthusiasm and are sales-oriented, pushing the reader to authors' websites to become dependent on them and spend more, More, MORE money on their products. Not "Opening Up by Writing It Down"--the authors gave their background info on the subject, discussed trials and errors, and provided details from multiple studies to support their thesis. However, they didn't make exaggerated claims that their method was THE method and openly acknowledged that they didn't have all the answers and that their ideas wouldn't work for everyone in every circumstance. They came off as genuine to me and I felt I could trust whatever they had to share, even if they couldn't make any promises that this sharing would help me solve all my problems (which, of course, no one in good conscience can do). They provided some preliminary exercises which I found beneficial and sparked some impromptu writing that also felt helpful. I feel like I'd have liked a few more exercises, or more information on variables of the expressive writing process. But that's a small criticism for a largely worthwhile read. If you're going through a rough patch, of any sort, it might prove helpful to you also, if you're ready (which, the authors note, may not be for some time after a traumatic event). 

My rating

5 stars out of 5

*Don't ask; won't tell.

**To give credit where it's due, props and thanks to Eric Barker, from whose recent blog post The 3-Step Evening Ritual That Will Make You Happy I learned about the "Opening Up" book. I subscribe to Eric's "weekly updates" (he wisely avoids calling them "newsletters," because ugh, like we need one more thing on our plates, jeeeeez). Though they're sometimes just a touch perkier than my irritable soul can typically stand, over the past two years I've grown to take some comfort from them.

***I've had to edit this blog post several times for tweaky purposes bc I appear to have forgotten how to write, ffs.


  1. Don't ask won't tell???? What kind of a policy is that? lol

    1. An admittedly weak one. 😊
      Perhaps when i'm stronger I'll feel like telling...

  2. After an awfully long quiet time, it's been so nice to see you active online of late. I've missed you! Someday you'll have to tell me all about it. How's the boy?

    1. SL, so sorry, I'm only seeing this comment now (in April - yikes!). The boy is chugging along, thank goodness! :-)


C'mon, post a comment. All the cool kids do.