Writing or Journaling: Stress Management & Relaxation

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Stress Management and Relaxation
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Writing to Relax and Manage Stress

"Confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away
the dirt, and leaves the surface brighter and clearer."

Mohandas Gandhi

        Journaling is an ancient form of personal expression that can be used to enhance your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Paper provides an opportunity for self-reflection and personal expression, a place to put worries and anger. It will listen to you without interrupting, and will never judge or criticize you. It doesn’t even notice misspelled words or bad grammar.

       It takes a lot of psychological and physiological energy to repress the negative emotions associated with traumatic experiences. Disclosing and releasing our anger, fear, guilt and sadness helps us manage this stress, even when we are only confessing to ourselves.

        Shamans and medicine men often required ill tribe members to confess their wrongs before a treatment was given. Aristotle noticed that people who wrote out their problems and emotions seemed to regain mental health more quickly, and Freud also had his patients write out their thoughts and feelings as part of the therapeutic process. Dr. Ira Progoff is given credit for starting the current trend of contemporary journal writing. He studied journal writing in history during the early 1960's, and found that patients who wrote in some form of a journal were able to work through issues more rapidly.

        Dr. James Pennebaker pioneered the medical research on journaling's physical health benefits. His research explored the biological and health effects of anonymously disclosing secrets and traumatic events. He found that those who wrote about their traumatic experiences reported fewer minor illnesses, fewer visits to the doctor, a decrease in the number of days off work, and had a more optimistic outlook on life than those who only wrote about ordinary events.

        Working with researchers at Ohio State University College of Medicine, he has also been able to document that journaling improves immune system function.

        Recently, other researchers at North Dakota State University documented journaling as a potential adjunct treatment for medical conditions with stress-related components. They noted improvements in the lung function of people with asthma, and improvement in pain management and range of motion for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

        These studies required people to write only twenty minutes a day for four consecutive days, yet the physical health benefits were still present four months after a single four day intervention.

        A diary is a record of the events and conditions of our life; journaling is our interpretation and experience of those events and conditions. There are many joyful reasons to keep a journal. A journal is place to share our victories and agonize about our defeats, brag about our strengths and admit our mistakes.

        We can explore solutions to our problems, or simply whine about them. A journal safely helps us hold onto our hopes and let go of our fears and failures. We can grieve our tragedies compassionately, and give our anger a healthy voice. Journaling can help us identify the source of fear and pain driving our obsessions and resentments, making it easier to release them.

        A journal or notebook gives us someplace to put the thoughts that need to be said, but are better left unheard. Journals are a safe place to put the things that we don't want to say out loud due to embarrassment, shame or fear. Writing is also a way to dress rehearse what we want to say out loud to someone. We can choose to write and then destroy what we write as a ritual to truly put something behind us, or just to ensure our privacy if we live around curious people.

       So, pick up a pen and a piece of paper, and write your way to a happier outlook and better health.

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Copyright 1999-2006 by Joy Koenig
All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.
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