Journaling: The Next Best Thing for Your Health
Journaling is one of the most powerful tools we have to transform our lives.
Chances are, you kept a diary sometime between the ages of 9 and 15. It may have been pink and fuzzy – like comfy bedroom slippers – or lime green vinyl with purple flowers, but Ill bet it had a lock and that you kept the key in a very special place where no one (especially your Mom) could find it.
What you may not know is that writing down those feelings has health benefits. Journaling can reduce stress, heal wounds and release creative blocks. It is a way to find your personal truth. And on top of that, it can be a fun, relaxing pastime.
Research from the Dr. James Pennebaker at University of Texas actually shows that writing can heal deep traumas among really diverse groups of people from honor students to the elderly. Other experts, like poet Gregory Orr (Poetry as Survival) and Louise Desalvo (Writing as a way of Healing) agree about the healing power of the writing. Julia Cameron (The Artists Way) is a long time aficionado of journaling to get your creative juices going.
So, it seems like you were on the right track in seventh grade with your fuzzy pink diary. And the good news is that journaling can still be an outlet for expressing your deepest concerns – a place to record triumphs and joys, as well. Instead of crushes on boy bands or the cute quarterback in high school, you can write about the bitchy colleague at work who talks behind your back, how the neighbor you thought was a friend turned out not to be such a good one and all the challenges of introducing 3-year-old Ally to a new playgroup (to say nothing of her Mom).
But where to start once your decided to give journaling a try? Local Life Coach, Sally Ray, who counsels women on how to keep their lives on track, offers up a few of her tips on how to go about lifting your spirits and unloading your burdens by writing:
Find a journal you really love. Journaling is all about you and you should love the way your journal looks, feels and even smells (think leather). A journal will be like your best friend for months, so you really ought to indulge yourself and get one you adore. Great sources here in Cincinnati are Joseph Beth Books in Norwood, any Barnes and Noble or Borders. If you really want something extra special try Poeme on Edwards Road off Hyde Park Square for upscale handmade and leather tooled journals.
Find the right time of day. Not everyone is a morning person. If you are, good news – set your alarm 15 minutes early and make a pot of your favorite coffee and pour your heart out. But if you are a night owl, your best journaling time may be 2 a.m.
Make it a habit. Keep your journal in a place where youll see it and it will call to you to write. Dont beat yourself up if you dont journal every day. The key is regularity – even if its every three days or once a week. Im a regular journaler, but lets face it, Im busy and I miss some days.
Be creative tailor your journal to you. Are you artistic? Doodle in your journal to express your feelings. If you like to scrapbook, spiff up your journal with concert tickets and photographs of places youve been. If spirituality is key in your life, keep a prayer journal.
Open up your heart and soul. This is really where the healing comes in. Be totally honest in your journal. Get all your negative feelings down on paper…disappointments about not getting that promotion or having the fight with your significant other.
But what, you ask, if someone reads my journal? When you were 13, it was important to keep your diary private and that is just as true now…or you wont be honest in your journal. Find a hiding spot no one will think of. I know of one woman who has a pact with her best friend that if she dies, the best friend will go in and take all her journals and burn them. That may be a little drastic, but you get the idea…to be totally honest and get the benefits of journaling, you have to feel safe.
So, treat yourself to a pretty journal…even fuzzy pink if you want, and start reaping the benefits. Itll be the start of a beautiful relationship with yourself.
- The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
- Writing As a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo
- Journalution by Sandy Grason
- Sally Ray, MSW, Life Coach (513) 533-0715