Sunday, June 01, 2008

BLOGS: Blogging for sickos …

Guess what. Blogging is good for you.

Actually, not blogging as such. Scientific America reports in its May 2008 issue that “expressive writing” or “writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings” can be more than just therapeutic.

Apparently blogging of this kind can help people with a range of conditions, from HIV to cancer to sleep disorders. That’s presuming, of course, that you don’t blog at odd hours.

However, scientists haven’t yet seen exactly how this works. All they know is that it works.

Scientists’ understanding about the neurobiology underlying therapeutic writing must remain speculative for now. Attempts to image the brain before and after writing have yielded minimal information because the active regions are located so deep inside. Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that the brain lights up differently before, during and after writing, notes James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. But Pennebaker and others remain skeptical about the value of such images because they are hard to duplicate and quantify.

Most likely, writing activates a cluster of neurological pathways, and several researchers are committed to uncovering them. At the University of Arizona, psychologist and neuroscientist Richard Lane hopes to make brain-imaging techniques more relevant by using those techniques to study the neuroanatomy of emotions and their expressions. Nancy Morgan, lead author of the Oncologist study, is looking to conduct larger community-based and clinical trials of expressive writing. And Pennebaker is continuing to investigate the link between expressive writing and biological changes, such as improved sleep, that are integral to health. “I think the sleep angle is one of the more promising ones,” he says.

The health benefits of blogging have become so widely recognised that ...

Some hospitals have started hosting patient-authored blogs on their Web sites as clinicians begin to recognize the therapeutic value. Unlike a bedside journal, blogging offers the added benefit of receptive readers in similar situations, Morgan explains: “Individuals are connecting to one another and witnessing each other’s expressions—the basis for forming a community.”

So hanging out with sick people can make you feel better. Maybe that’s why so many sick people hang around this blog.

Surely this shit can't be good for you!

(Thanks to SJH)

BOOKS: Leaving the faith …

I’m currently reading Tanya Levin’s People In Glass Houses: An Insider’s Story Of A Life In & Out Of Hillsong.

I must admit that I am reading it with a grain of salt. Ex-members of faiths aren’t often the best sources of information on the beliefs and practices of the faith they left behind. I’ve written about this phenomenon in an article for on neo-Conservative ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Magaan and Islamist ex-Jew Maryam Jameelah (formerly Margaret Marcus).

Unlike these two writers, Tanya Levin seems to give her old congregation a relatively fair hearing. She acknowledges that she did gain a lot from her old faith, and that much of her disillusionment was caused by factors outside any involvement with the church.

Levin doesn’t engage in wholesale attacks on Christianity as a whole, nor does she call for the human rights of Christians to be curtailed (unlike Ayaan Hirsi Magaan). However, she does expose some of the peculiar spiritual and emotional pathologies that can play havoc with young minds drenched in what Levin labels “Christian fundamentalism”.

Levin recently appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. The book is written in a sassy style and makes a great read. A review of the book can be found here. You can also read what Tanya Levin says about Hillsong's Mercy Ministries project here.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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