It Gets Easier: The Examined Life Conference 2018, Day 3

On the last day of The Examined Life Conference, presenters and MDs challenged me to keep going and to keep improving.

In the morning, Dr. Ann Green and Dr. Edward Fristrom lead a workshop highlighting their work with pre-med students. Their work centers around listening and narrative skills. This seems essential, but it’s even more important when dealing with younger students who tend to save the world first and ask questions later.
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When You Hear Your Own Story: The Examined Life Conference 2018, Day 2

Dr. David Thoele introduced me to The Examined Life, and suggested that I submit a proposal for last year’s conference. Today, he and fellow staff from the Advocate system presented their work on how to help patients process their experiences and relieve stress.

His project started by simply encouraging patients to write a journal. When most patients didn’t respond to the open-ended “Write something!”, he looked for other ways to encourage reflection. Eventually, David began doing a 3-minute exercise which involves three simple writing prompts. The 3-Minute Mental Makeover (3MMM) was born.
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Thursday Review: “Forming a Story: The Health Benefits of Narrative”

Telling a story is good for your health

In the Journal of Clinical Psychology, James W. Pennebaker and Janel D. Seagal study a group of students instructed to write about a traumatic experience, and then measure both the mental and physical health outcomes of those students. The results were measured against a control group, who were instructed to write strictly descriptive passages.

The participants who wrote about a traumatic experience recorded significantly fewer visits to a doctor in the months following the exercises.

The authors also review studies across a wide range of demographic groups which reveal that similar exercises produce positive effects on blood markers of immune function, are associated with lower pain and medication use, are linked to higher grades in college, and are even associated with faster times to getting new jobs among senior-level engineers.
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