Soon after the terror strikes in Mumbai, Mint started a blog titled If I Were PM to which people’s response has been overwhelming. Besides serving as a platform for the outraged public for venting angst, this also supports recent research findings that point to blogging as a therapeutic exercise; one of the reasons, in hindsight, why the blogosphere took off the way it did.
Writers and scientists have long known the cathartic effects of expressive writing of which blogging is a fitting example. But new studies show such writing, besides being a stress coping mechanism, also has some physiological benefits to offer. It’s believed to improve sleep, memory and immune response of the body, and is shown to abate the viral load in AIDS patients.
In one of the first studies published earlier this year in the journal Oncologist, researchers reported that cancer patients who participated in a writing programme before the treatment showed better results in physical and mental recovery. The authors of this study are now planning a larger community-based clinical trial on expressive writing.
Meanwhile, researchers at Harvard, Arizona and other universities are exploring the ostensible placebo effect of blogging. Trying to understand the neurological basis of blogging, scientists are studying disease models and the act of expressive, compulsive writing in order to understand why people choose this mode of communication. Some even believe that blogging might lead to dopamine release, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation, just as exercise, food, music or even looking at art triggers stimulants in the brain.
Such is the belief in blogging that some hospitals are hosting sites with patients’ posts, others are incorporating, or at least they actively champion, writing programmes as part of supportive care for cancer patients. In a recent paper in the American Journal of Psychotherapy researchers from the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand reported constructing a portrait of an individual who uses blog as a self-therapy.
So, has the post-Mumbai-attack blogging been a group therapy or creation of an instant support system? Whatever it is, it shouldn’t undermine the face-to-face counselling in fighting a disease condition much in the same manner that the state should not undermine its role in protecting its citizens.
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