I was wondering on what to write on next , constantly being egged on by my daughter and the flash came , why not about ‘writing’ itself. I recently took up this challenge called ‘#100sareepact’ started by two women in Bengaluru, India, which basically is to encourage the use of sarees with pride in modern Indian women. A garment that holds a special place in the lives of, and defines majority of Indian women. Sadly is getting lost in this globalized world for reasons of convenience and also western dress being seen as mark of modern woman. In this process, I started documenting the sarees and myriad memories attached to my collection spanning over three or more decades, more since many I have inherited from my grandmother, mother and fond aunts. Currently on to number 60/100, I feel I have opened a virtual Pandora’s box of memories and emotions. As I sit late at night usually to pen the few lines that define the fabric, the weave, the texture, the embellishments & then the origin or even the event where its worn I am amazed by the sheer ease with which the words flow. What has given me immense joy is that with the mere six yards, the memories that tumble out have given me an insight into people and events that has left an indelible impression on my life. It’s my way of acknowledging this and more. It’s like an offering of my ‘gratitude stone’ with each blog. Who would’ve imagined the tangible benefits of a simple blog on something so inane as a saree bringing so much value to my life and also, I believe to my extended family and friends, really my ‘circle of love’.
There have been many research studies on benefits of writing the emotions that give visible health benefits, even helping wounds heal. Writing down your deepest feelings can even help your physical health. Most women have had a bad sexual experience of molestation and or abuse as children, something as commonplace as being groped in public transport or incestuous touching can damage a child’s mind. Way back in 1986, Prof James W. Pennebaker published seminal research showing expressive writing could make people healthier. He had the idea after finding that people who had had an early traumatic sexual experience were more likely to suffer health problems later in life, including cancer and high blood pressure since these were battled up and kept secret. Prof Pennebaker’s work inspired a generation of psychologists to research the health benefits of expressive writing. Not every study replicated his result, but many did, including some with truly remarkable results: a recent New Zealand study, for example, found that when older people wrote about traumatic experiences two weeks before having a skin biopsy, their physical wounds healed nearly twice as quickly.
Teenagers with social-emotional difficulties benefited from writing about their thoughts and feelings in blogs, researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel found. Participants were assigned to one of six groups, including one that wrote in blogs open to readers but closed to comments, another in blogs open to comments, and one group that kept private computer diaries. Though writing about their feelings helped all the groups, those who wrote in the blogs that were open to comments were helped most. This contrasts with one of Prof Pennebaker’s recommendations for expressive writing – to do it for yourself. I must add that my own writings also attracted some negative insanely jealous comments apart from scores of positive ones. But that’s’ life and despite criticism one had to pursue what brings joy, a lesson in living itself. There is a huge amount of negativity out there but happy people learn to ignore that , rise above it and move on, is what I’ve learnt and wish to share with all you lovely women out there.
In one of Prof’s experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics, read saree-blog! Afterwards, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center. Its common knowledge that if you keep your emotions bottled up it’s going to make you sick, or you’re going to get an ulcer, or you’re going to have a psychological disorder. And now we have concrete evidence that this is the case.
“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.” Research is on now to understand how writing & then rewording your personal story can lead to behavior modification and improve happiness and hence, health. We all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of us and the world around us. If our inner voice doesn’t get it right the first time around , we re-write, edit, modify till we are happy with the version that may change self-perceptions and identify barriers that stand in way of happiness. Writing about personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.
If I get value from feeling happy in a simple saree story and not be bullied into thinking that western wear defines a modern Indian woman , so be it! Let the words flow on and with it the stresses of life….