Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A-Z: Journaling for Mental Wellness

an Apple a day will keep ANYONE away, if thrown hard enough.One of the best ways to keep one's sanity is not apples (though a healthy diet is an integral part of mental as well as physical health), but journaling.

We're all walking/crawling/being dragged through life. We are on a journey through life, and the word journal comes from the same root.  It's a record of our passing through.

What Are The Benefits of Journaling?:

Journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge. It’s also a good problem-solving tool; oftentimes, one can hash out a problem and come up with solutions more easily on paper. Journaling about traumatic events helps one process them by fully exploring and releasing the emotions involved, and by engaging both hemispheres of the brain in the process, allowing the experience to become fully integrated in one’s mind.
As for the health benefits of journaling, they've been scientifically proven. Research shows the following:
  • Journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions.
  • It improves cognitive functioning.
  • It strengthens the immune system, preventing a host of illnesses.
  • It counteracts many of the negative effects of stress.

There are various sites online that offer journaling prompts, so if you want to try journaling, and are staring at a blank page, you can find a way to prime the pump.

Tips to Start Journaling
Journaling — the act of writing things down somewhere (where doesn’t really matter) — has many benefits. Here’s an important one:
“It’s not in the rereading that one finds solace but in the writing itself. It’s like crying—you don’t know why, but you feel so much better afterward. Everything pours, streams, flows, out of you aimlessly,” writes Samara O’Shea in her beautifully written book Note to Self: On Keeping A Journal And Other Dangerous Pursuits.
Here’s another: Journaling is a profound — and simple — way to get to know yourself better. To figure out what makes you tick. What makes you happy. What makes you defensive. What makes you giggle or grateful or grieve. What makes you who you are.

Quite simply, it’s a great tool to help you grow.

Throughout Note to Self, O’Shea shares excerpts from her journals, along with journal entries from others, including Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath and Tennessee Williams. She also shares how to get started. These are a few of her tips:
  • “Say anything.” There are no shoulds, only woulds, she writes. Don’t think about what a journal should be. “Write the good, bad, mad, angry, boring, and ugly.”
  • Don’t lose faith if you don’t feel better instantly. As O’Shea writes, “Sometimes, a writing session will be the fast-acting mental medicine needed to release pent-up emotions, and other times, it will just be the beginning of getting to know yourself or dealing with a problem.” She says to focus on the long term. Over time, you’ll be able to witness “your emotional evolution.”
  • Just start. Remember that your journal will develop on its own. Still got nothing? Try a few prompts, such as answering questions or describing your life.

Picking a journal.  There is something beautiful and intimate about keeping a handwritten journal. It can have a beautiful leather cover, a pretty pink one, or be a wire bound notebook- whatever works for you. Or, you can write your journal on the computer itself, if typing is easier to you than writing by hand. This may be the way to go if you are afraid someone will find your physical journal, but be sure to always passcode protect anything you write on a shared computer (and know that passcodes can always be cracked).

A journal can start for one purpose, and then be used for another.  You might want to start a food diary, for instance, because you are having digestive issues and think you might be allergic to something. Or you're trying a new medication, and you want to monitor for possible side effects. You might want to journal to track your writing progress, as a love letter to yourself. You might want to work out grief over the loss of a loved one.

Sadly, a very important reason to keep a journal might be if you are living with a mentally ill person. They can be so sure and so persuasive of their reality (think gaslighting) that you get lost in the FOG and lose touch with what is real and what is not real.  They're probably not even doing it on purpose - they may be expressing their reality as best they can, but all of those who've spent time with a disordered person know that they can "forget" fights, insults, even assaults. Keeping a journal was one of the ways that I found my way out of the FOG.

There is no wrong reason to keep a journal. And many good ones. So pick up that quill - or Bic, or Uniball, and start journaling!

My A-Z theme is Issues related to Mental Health or Mental Illness.

Do you, or have you ever kept a journal?
What were the benefits? Disadvantages?
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