In the last edition I wrote about writing to heal the body. In this second of three articles, I will address how journaling your concerns can de-stress your life and mind.
Philosopher and psychologist William James once said, “If you can change your mind, you can change your life” – and journaling can help you do just that! I assign many types of writing assignments to clients, as the therapeutic benefits are many. Three of my favorite ways to de-stress through writing are:
- Gratitude Journal. Write just 3 things every day for which you are grateful. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small thing, the requirement is that it’s sincere. Think of the “small” things for a minute: when was the last time you felt grateful for clean drinking water? Unless you’ve spent time in a third-world country, or been a victim of a natural disaster, you’ve likely taken this for granted. Sincere gratitude expressed daily will open your eyes to all that’s right and good around you. Over time, it will become your habit to look for the silver lining in every cloud you encounter. Not only will it improve your outlook and your mood, it will boost your body’s overall ability to manage stress, which will result in a healthier, happier you.
- Free Writing. This is when you just put pen to paper and write. Don’t think, don’t punctuate, just write. Fill a page, then read over (hopefully it’s legible enough) what you wrote. You will likely be surprised at what came out on your paper. Many times there are deep frustrations, false beliefs, and anger that you’ve had festering inside on a subconscious level. Any time you write a thought, you bring out the intangible and make it real. Once it is real, you can process it, and when you’re done with the negative, you can throw it away. It is so empowering to be able to “toss” your worries away!
- “Reality Check” Writing. A friend and mentor taught me this technique, and I use it often. This one can take a while, so make sure you’re good and comfortable, with plenty of time before you begin. Take out a piece of paper and list everything that is bugging you. Number the items, and detail exactly why you are irritated with each situation. Make sure you’ve written until you feel that everything is out. When you are finished, take out a fresh paper. On this list, you will address each item of irritation, and you will answer it with Truth. To do this, you will look at each item without the distortion of emotion – you will take a step back from the situation you’ve written about – and you will look at the bigger picture. As you do this you will notice that there is a different way to see your problems, and you will feel a shift as you do so. You’ll see the good through the bad, and you’ll recognize growth and learning in your troubles and stresses. This exercise is perfectly effective, as it broadens your mind to infinite possibilities. Tame your negative thoughts with Truth!
One interesting side-note about journaling: it matters that you use a pen/pencil and paper. You won’t get quite the same result if you type your feelings, as there is something healing about creating letters with your own hand. Try expressing feelings on paper and see if it doesn’t cool your brain, slow your breathing, clear your thoughts, and deepen your sleep. What better gift could you give yourself than the gift of a calm, balanced, and relaxed mind?
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