Your body says yes, but your head says no. Sound familiar? Our head and our bodies are often at odds with each other, like when you choose a salad at lunch even though you're salivating at the thought of a burger. Researchers at the University of Arizona have found this to be true when it comes to the health benefits of journaling.

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In the new study, the team found that journaling post divorce could actually make your heart healthier, however, previous research by the university indicated that doing so could make more depressed.

For the latest findings, scientists gathered 109 separated or divorced people who broke up with their partners about three months prior. The divorcees were put into three types of writing groups: expressive, narrative expression and non-emotional journaling about daily activities. Everyone wrote for 20 minutes a day, three days in a row. The subjects’ physical and psychological health was documented before journaling to establish a baseline and at two visits following the writing therapy to establish results.

notebook-1840276_1920 Writing expressively in a journal can calm your heart rate, which is better for your health, but may cause you to stew over negative events. Pixabay

All of that journaling had a positive impact on those who wrote in the narrative expressive form. The newly single had a lower heart rate and higher heart rate variability, which is the change in time between heartbeats. A higher rate of variability is thought to be an indicator of good health.

"The explicit instructions to create a narrative may provide a scaffolding for people who are going through this tough time," says Kyle Bourassa, lead author and doctoral student in psychology at the UA, in a statement. "This structure can help people gain an understanding of their experience that allows them to move forward, rather than simply spinning and re-experiencing the same negative emotions over and over."

In 2012, UA psychology professor David Sbarra also studied the impact of expressive writing. Sbarra found that the method could actually cause psychological distress for people who are natural brooders and spend lots of time thinking about what went wrong in their relationships.

This time, Bourassa wanted to see what impact journaling had on our bodies instead of our minds.

"Psychology and physiology don't always hang together, so you can have people who say they're not doing well in terms of their self-reported mood, while at the same time observing positive or adaptive changes in their physiology," says Bourassa.

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Naturally, dealing with a divorce isn’t easy. The American Psychological Association notes that studies have shown self-care and compassion are two behaviors that help people cope with the dissolution of their marriages. Outside of seeking professional help, they recommend discovering new hobbies, participating in enjoyable activities and getting physically fit to manage stress after divorce.

See Also:

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