writing your own story
It has taken me a while to embrace a journaling practice. Writing my most private fears and feelings reminded me too much of when I was a child and my mother would yell, “now go have fun!” It seemed like a lot of pressure. Consequently, I reframed “journaling” as “listing” for a while. Listing removed the obligation to elaborate more than I wanted. I listed whatever I wanted to give note – ideas plans, blocks or challenges.
It’s likely most people don’t need semantic tricks to find their journaling courage, but I did. And this is why I worked so hard to find it: Journaling improves mood, wellbeing, self-understanding, and creativity. It also reduces stress, increases immune function, and quickens wound healing.
Researchers are unpacking why journaling is so beneficial. I think the benefit largely reflects the ability journaling gives us to find new perspectives for our life’s story. This story organizes where we’re from, who we are, and how we respond to others and the world. Writing about it allows us to sort through the beliefs preventing our narrative from unfolding in new, autonomous ways. When we write our lived experiences, we get to review, edit, and revise storylines so we become active in them. I don’t mean to say we can negate our past by rewriting it. We can, however, identify what it means for who we are and allow that meaning to influence our path versus determine it.
So, most days, I journal. I’ve graduated to paragraphs (sometimes several in a row), but I still list occasionally. I encourage you to journal or list or keep going if you do. Writing our ideas and hopes is a powerful step in realizing them. Likewise, recognizing and rewriting our pain and scars is a powerful tool in healing them. You deserve each and every one of these gifts.
References & Resources
Benson, H. & Proctor, W. The breakout principle: How to activate the natural trigger that maximizes creativity, athletic performance, productivity and personal well-being. (2003). New York: Scribner.
Pennebaker, J. W. (2004). Writing to heal: A guided journal for recovering from trauma and emotional upheaval. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Press.
Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions. New York: Guilford Press.
Purcell, M. (2016). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. Retrieved September 1, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/
Rodriguez, T. (November 1, 2013). Writing can help injuries heal faster. Scientific American. Retrieved September 1, 2016 from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/writing-can-help-injuries-heal-faster/
Stepko, B. (January 13, 2015). The healing powers of keeping a journal, and 3 ways to stick with it. Health. Retrieved September 1, 2016 from http://news.health.com/2015/01/13/the-healing-powers-of-keeping-a-journal-and-3-ways-to-stick-with-it/