I began writing when I was a teenager. In the throes of teenage angst, caught between new marriages for both my mother and my father and not quite knowing where I belonged, teetering on the edge of a pretty serious addiction, I turned to writing. When the "bad kids" in my grade would go and get themselves into trouble after school, I would opt to sit in my favorite English teacher's classroom and write. I wouldn't do homework, but I would write for hours on end, sharing what I had written and asking for her opinions. I would write short stories, and poetry, but a lot of the time I would just write whatever fell out of my brain.
Today I know that this writing was a form of catharsis, a release from the emotional stress and trauma I was going through. I was identified as "a writer", but I was really just a kid trying to get the gunk out of my head. I knew, even from that early age, that if I let it sit in there that it would fester and burn, and releasing it allowed me to cleanse and see situations more clearly. Did it help with the teenage angst? Not one bit. But it got me out of my own way most days, and also out of some potentially dangerous situations.
Men began journals back in the earliest days as a form of keeping track of where they were going. They would write about their day's journey, and reflect on the lessons that they had learned and the places they had discovered. They would also use it as a way to find their way back to places, even back home. When women began writing, they wrote as witnesses to their counterparts' journeys, and chronicled the emotions that they were feeling, but often were forced to repress. Their journals were called "diaries" and to this day, that term carries a feminine connotation connected to the writings of those times (Seaward, 2015, p. 248).
Today, journaling is used as a transpsychological therapy - a way of writing down what is inside of your head in order to reflect on it and discover patterns that can then be addressed. Journal writing has been identified as one, if not THE, most effective coping technique that we have available today. It opens the doorway between you and your thoughts, which can bring about the resolution of perceived stress. Expressive writing has positive impact on the individual in areas ranging from decreased blood pressure levels to helping people move on from relationships or deaths of loved ones (Seaward, 2015, p. 250).
The immediate effect of journal therapy is that we can let go of what is ailing us. We are literally dumping everything in our brain out onto a piece of paper, allowing our subconscious to release it's hold on those thoughts. Long term, we can divorce ourselves from our thoughts and look at them from an objective perspective, thereby developing an awareness of our triggers. Once we are aware, we can begin to notice those triggers and respond accordingly, rather than reacting as soon as they pop up (Seaward, 2015, p. 251).
Finally, putting words to paper may help a person to actually look at their issues, rather than filing them to the back of their conscience for review at a later time. In a study conducted by Margaret L. Keeling and Maria Bermudez about the effectiveness of externalizing problems through art and writing, it was found that "the deliberate and reflective nature of the exercise, specifically the use of journaling...appeared to have compelled participants to deal with problems rather than to avoid them and to work through their problems with privacy, safety, and in a naturalistic time frame" (Keeling & Bermudez, 2006). By writing the problem out on a piece of paper, you have to actually look at that problem. Examine it. See it through an objective lens that we cannot otherwise apply with those little voices inside of our heads whispering to us at all times!
With the onslaught of digital media today, it can be difficult to navigate through the muck that we generously pour into our brains all day long. It's no wonder that it can get a little bit murky in there when it comes to solving complex personal problems. Sitting down in a quiet space with a journal once a day is an unparalleled way to find your own voice again and to be able to hold a mirror up to your perceived stressors.
Journaling opens up an honest communication pathway between your soul and yourself. Do you really need any other reason to start TODAY?
And if you are TOTALLY lost and don't know HOW to talk to yourself (or feel kinda funny doing it), I have a BUNCH of amazing guided journals that are inexpensive and can totally help you get the ball rolling here. This is an affiliate link, so if you do happen to click through and purchase something, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. So, thanks for the cup of tea in advance!
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Cheers to your journey to self-discovery!
Keeling, M. L., & Bermudez, M. (2006). EXTERNALIZING PROBLEMS THROUGH ART AND WRITING: EXPERIENCES OF PROCESS AND HELPFULNESS. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 32(4), 405-19. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/220946900?accountid=158302 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Seaward, B. L. (2015). Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being (8th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.