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Journaling - A Tool for Healing and Growth

The word "journal" comes from the French. It dates back to the 14th century and means daily. As recently as April 26, 1999, "Newsweek" magazine ran an article entitled "Pen, Paper, & Power. Confessional Writing can be Good for You."

Recently, the JAMA had completed a study in which sick participants wrote about their feelings and events in their lives. "Newsweek" wrote, "Researchers found that asthma patients who wrote about painful experiences, improved their lung function by 19%. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis saw their symptoms decrease by 27%."

Journaling can be a wonderful experience. It can be a place to express feelings not yet ready for verbal communication. The journal provides a private and safe place to reveal yourself. It can serve as a reflective experience to explore and interpret your inner feelings. It can also offer a tool to express your anger and hurts. It is a vehicle to help you to get the feelings out of your body. When we repress negative feelings, we may experience headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure, to name a few.

Do not worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Let your words flow freely and do not judge them. This is a place to unwind, to focus, and to experience clarity.

If you take the time to write out your thoughts and feelings, you will discover that you usually feel much calmer than when you started. And you may find that the answer you seek is a few lines away.

Sound too simple? There are some guidelines to help you along the way. You can buy a notebook or plain paper. The important thing is to keep it in a safe place but get everyone in your family, home, office, to agree not to read it should they come across it.

Where to begin? A simple exercise can be writing down your name. Look at it and think about what it means to you. Free association can be very helpful too. Here are some other ideas for getting started:

Write down words to a song and what they mean to you.

Make a list of important people in your life and what they mean to you.

Write about what makes you happy.

Write about what makes you angry or sad.

Write about what hurts.

Write letters that you are never going to send, about your anger, sorrow, disappointments with someone.

Also be sure to write about some positive things in your life also. This is not a place to dump on yourself.

If you feel your emotions are getting out of control, you can stop writing for a time. It is important to return, but sometimes a pause is healthy.

If you seek more information, there is a wealth of information on the Internet. Although not a substitute for professional help, should you need it, journaling can offer joy, relief, and insight.

Karlynn Baker grew up in Los Angeles, California, and moved to Arizona in 1972 to receive her MS degree in rehabilitation counseling. She also specializes in addictions. She owns her own counseling business and enjoys life with her husband, David, three daughters, and three adorable grandsons.

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