Writing in a journal is recommended to those who are dealing with negative emotions, having suffered from a traumatic event. When we write down our thoughts and feelings, we find it easier to recover from difficult experiences. The whole concept is known as therapeutic journaling and it guides you to reflect on things that have happened, identifying the best solutions for moving forward.
What is therapeutic writing?
You might have never thought of writing as a form of therapy. But, as any psychotherapist will tell you, expressing your emotions in writing has a therapeutic effect. This type of intervention is especially advisable for those who are dealing with or have dealt with emotional trauma.
As you will see below, there are different therapeutic journaling ideas for which one can opt. For instance, someone who deals with bereavement might benefit from writing a letter to the person who has died. At first, it might be difficult to write about the trauma you experienced, being at a loss for words. However, with perseverance, you will definitely find the power to go on and you will see how big of a difference writing has made in your life. (R)
Journaling and how it can be therapeutic
By keeping a journal, you will get a fresh perspective on things and be able to improve both physical and mental health. You can express both negative and positive emotions, and analyze certain events that have had an impact on your life. For many people, journaling has a therapeutic effect, helping them get over events that were traumatic.
Whether you prefer to write about major life events or daily occurrences, journaling will be more beneficial more than you might think. What matters is that you are open and honest, writing down how the event in question made you feel. You can mention if you felt angry, anxious or depressed, or how you dealt with the associated grief and loss. Journaling is an effective coping strategy, especially when it comes to one’s mental health.
If you are wondering what makes journaling therapeutic, just think about the fact that it is a great way to express one’s emotions (which in turn is beneficial for our health). Studies have even confirmed that journaling can enhance the functioning of the immune system, this being the reason for which therapeutic journaling activities are recommended for those who suffer from chronic illnesses.
The truth is that no one leads a perfect life. Life has its ups and downs, and traumatic or upsetting events can occur. When we find ourselves face-to-face with an upsetting situation, we might need some time to process everything. If we do not take this time or find a way to express our emotions, our mental health might suffer as a result.
When you express your thoughts and feelings, either on a piece of paper or using an online application, you are taking the first step towards healing. You are moving in the direct direction, as you are expressing thoughts and feelings that might hurt you if bottled up inside. As a result, you might be able to let go of those feelings.
From a different perspective, therapeutic journaling exercises can help you go through an event that has occurred and notice new details. You will get the clarity deserved and be able to place the respective situation in the correct context. (R)
Who should consider therapeutic journaling?
This form of therapy and self-reflection is beneficial for anyone who has experienced trauma, grief or loss. It can be chosen by parents for teens or smaller kids, who have emotional issues or suffer from additional health problems, such as autism or ADHD.
Adults who suffer from medical problems can definitely benefit from therapeutic journaling. Expressive writing can improve lung functioning in individuals with asthma, it can make the manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis less severe and it can help one deal with cancer pain.
Journaling can help people recover faster from surgical interventions and it represents a strong solution for coping with chronic pain. It can even strengthen the immune system, even though the connection between this habit and the immune response has yet to be identified.
In the situation that one has experienced a traumatic life event, such as the death of a spouse, divorce, losing one’s job, being involved in an accident or being affected by a natural disaster, therapeutic journaling might be just the answer one was looking for. Trauma survivors can re-discover empathy through journaling, not to mention they will protect themselves against PTSD, depression and anxiety. Last, but not least, journaling might be a useful tool for those who are trying to recover from alcohol or substance abuse, as well as those who battle mental health issues.
If you are going through a difficult time in your relationship, battling feelings of low self-esteem or thinking about making major life changes, journaling might help you feel better. It encourages self-reflection and self-discovery, forcing you to get out of the comfort box and acknowledge your feelings at they are. (R)
Giving therapeutic journaling a try
If you have experienced emotional trauma or a stressful life event, you might want to consider emotional release techniques and especially therapeutic journaling. As UCLA psychologists confirm it, this is an effective tool for improving both mental and physical health.
Whether you prefer the traditional approach – paper – or you are more drawn to modern technology, using a mobile app – either on iOS or Android – there are some general guidelines to follow. And, even though the delivery platform might vary, you still have to think about journaling as a habit to be formed and not one that can be achieved in an instant.
Choose a quiet place to write, where no one can disturb you and there is enough peace to be alone with your thoughts. You can write about anything but you might want to consider choosing an event that has upset or traumatized you. Begin writing and have faith in yourself, do not try to stick within a certain frame but rather let your thoughts run free.
You should not be afraid to explore the emotions and thoughts associated with traumatic life events. If you find it hard to go so deep in the beginning, then choose another event and trust that you will get there in time. Try to write about personal matters and on a daily basis, at least for 10-15 minutes. Write for yourself, as this exercise is not about sharing the resulting entries with others.
When starting to write about a traumatic life event, such as the loss of your father or the painful divorce you just went through, you will most likely experience a whirlwind of emotions, including sadness and depression. This is completely normal and it represents a sign that you are opening your soul, pursuing healing as a process.
Once you have completed an entry in the diary, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Think about the way you feel and acknowledge the thoughts that are now in writing, without being too judgmental with yourself. There is no limit to how much or how little you should be writing; just follow your intuition and try to write about the parts in your life you feel they require healing.
Therapeutic journaling prompts
Not everyone is born with the capacity to write and it can be especially difficult to express your own feelings and thoughts on paper. For those of us who are going through such a hard time, there are therapeutic journaling prompts that can be used.
For instance, if you do not know how to start, you can take a photograph of someone you lost or an event that marked you, and go from there. You might also opt for timed journal entries, deciding on a particular topic and setting a timer for 10 minutes.
You can start your sentences with specific beginnings, talking about the things that worry you the most, the reasons for which you are not sleeping well or commemorate your happiest memories. Some people find it helpful to organize lists, including things that make them sad, happy, reasons for which they are grateful to wake up in the morning or activities they enjoy.
How to use the CareClinic health app for therapeutic journaling
CareClinic is a comprehensive and useful health app that can be used to document symptoms of various medical issues, organize self-care plans and generate reminders for medication, doctor appointments etc. The built-in journal is one of its most attractive features, allowing one to give expressive writing a try.
In order to use the journal of the app, you will have to download it on your smartphone or use the web version.
After you establish your account, which is free to use, you can go to “Create a check-in Post” and prepare yourself for the first journal entry.
You can choose “Diary” and start writing.
All of the entries will be saved within the CareClinic health app, and you can review them at any time you might desire. You might even decide to share the content with your therapist, in order to come up with the most suitable therapies for your emotional issues.
As this is a comprehensive application, you can use it to establish a self-care plan, meant to improve your mental health. You can keep track of the symptoms experienced, as well as of their frequency and intensity. The application allows you to record treatments, therapies, natural remedies and anything else you might have used to improve your emotional well-being. You can trust it to set up recovery goals or add a care team, including people who are there for you, such as friends or family members.
In some cases, though rarely, therapeutic journaling might not be recommended. This is true for those who experience very intense feelings in association with this activity and the events they are writing about. If you feel like the whole experience is something you cannot handle, take a step back and concentrate on other things. Return when you feel capable of handling the process of writing.
Even though journaling has a therapeutic effect, it can cause some people to experience panic attacks, severe distress or stress. These are situations in which journaling should be discontinued and other therapeutic solutions should be sought out.
A good way to center yourself is through deep breathing, but you might also want to talk to someone – a friend, family member or therapist – about the way journaling makes you feel. If journaling does not help you deal with your negative emotions and feelings, you need to seek out additional help.