For centuries, journaling has been a tool for self-discovery. With reflective writing, your words do not have to be carefully arranged. It’s your private world and your private thoughts. You can ramble. Mention the unthinkable. Explore ideas with no worry about the consequences.
Writing as personal therapy
Journaling can help us turn a jumbled set of feelings into a coherent story. It can give us a better sense of ourselves as the author of our lives rather than a victim of circumstances. Research on writing as “expressive therapy” has revealed that it can
- Increase happiness
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Strengthen the immune system, especially for those coping with physical or medical challenges
You or your loved one may wish to try journaling. Great! A few caveats. Studies have shown:
- If you’re dealing with a major depression or other significant mental health challenge, journal in conjunction with a therapist.
- If you recently experienced a significant trauma, wait a few months. Writing too soon, when emotions are raw, may make you feel worse.
- It is possible to get mired in the negative. Write about your worries and concerns, but don’t just vent. Look for a meaning or purpose behind your thoughts.
- Writing that is solution-oriented provides greater benefit. Exploring strategies to address problems and acknowledging the positives of a situation are important components to making a journaling session therapeutic.
How to get the most out of journaling
- Pick a quiet, private place where you can write without interruption.
- Write continuously for 20 minutes about whatever comes to mind. (Aim to do this daily for four days in a row.)
- Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. This writing is for your eyes only.
- Prioritize issues.
- Track your triggers and responses. Look for patterns.
- Brainstorm solutions. Make plans.
[Excerpted from Concordia Visiting Nurses 2/18 Newsletter]