Sunday, November 06, 2005

Health Hint: Using Journaling to Aid Health

Keeping a journal or diary provides an avenue for expressing stressful emotions and thoughts that may have a tendency to worsen physical symptoms.

Studies have found that if we express feelings about a time in our lives that was very traumatic or stressful, our immune function strengthens, we become more relaxed and our health may improve. Writing about these processes helps us organize our thoughts and create closure to an event that our minds have a tendency to want to suppress or hide. This can be done in the privacy of the home and requires only pen and paper. No one but the individual needs to read what is written. The most benefit comes from writing the document and the words can even be destroyed if so desired.

This process can bring back into conscious some frightening events that would best be handled with the help of a licensed therapist. These services should be sought out if needed.
How to Journal

* Write about an upsetting or troubling experience in your life. Something that has affected you deeply and that you have not discussed at length with others.
* First describe the event in detail. Write about the situation, surroundings and sensations that you remember.
* Then describe your deepest feeling regarding the event. Let go and allow the emotions to run freely in your writing. Describe how you felt about the event then and now.
* Write continuously. Do not worry about grammar, spelling or sentence structure. If you come to a block, simply repeat what you have already written.
* Before finishing, write about what you may have learned or how you may have grown from the event.
* Write for 20 minutes for at least four days. You can write about different traumas or reflect on the same one each day.
* Consider keeping a regular journal if the process proves helpful.

Rakel, DP. Shapiro D, Mind Body Medicine, Textbook of Family Practice. 6th ed. Saunders.

An excellent resource for more information on this subject can be found in a book titled, Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions by James Pennebaker, PhD. Guilford Press, 1997.

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