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Divorce Research: New Study Shows Journaling Post-Split May Do More Harm Than Good

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Put down the pen and paper. Contrary to what you -- and your therapist -- believe, journaling after a separation or divorce may not be good for your post-split emotional healing.

According to a University of Arizona study set to be published in a forthcoming issue of Clinical Psychological Science, writing about feelings can actually leave some recently divorced people feeling more distressed. This is especially true for people labeled "high ruminators" -- or those who "have a tendency to ruminate on their [failed relationship], brood on their experience and go over it and over it and over it again."

Originally, psychological scientist David Sbarra and his team of researchers set out to compare the effectiveness of two different styles of expressive writing on emotional healing. In the study, 90 recently divorced or separated people were divided into groups. One group was asked to write freely about their feelings (known as traditional expressive writing) and the other group was asked to write about those feelings in a narrative structure, telling the story of their marriage (also known as narrative expressive writing).

The third group was a control group, which was told to keep a journal about their day-to-day activities without including information about feelings and emotions.

After eight months, Sbarra found that the most effective type of writing for emotional healing was actually the non-expressive style practiced by the control group, especially among the high ruminators. But why would writing about mundane tasks be more beneficial to these people's recovery than communicating their post-split feelings?

“If a person goes over and over something in their head, and then you say, ‘Write down your deepest darkest thoughts and go over it again,’ we will intensify their distress,” Sbarra explained in a press release.

The results for the low ruminators -- or those who tend not to mull over the reasons behind their split -- were relatively similar across groups, regardless of what style of writing they practiced.

“This study is important because it challenges our notions about what might be the thing to do to promote healing after a divorce,” Sbarra said of his research. “It makes us reconsider the things we do to try to put our lives back together.”

But Sbarra's research isn't the only recent study that has gotten the divorce community talking. Click through the slides below to see 11 more attention-grabbing divorce findings.

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