Friday, March 25, 2016

Mental Health Series - Journal Therapy

Journal Therapy.

What comes to mind when you think of Journal Therapy?

Writing thoughts?

Personal information, private, don't share?

Coloring Books?



Images of some sort?

Phrases, words, pictures?

All of the above, actually.

I have always kept a journal. Even as a child. Many of my earlier journals were destroyed when my parents moved while I was in Marine Corps bootcamp. They moved to a different house while I was away and when I returned, I had nothing of my own possessions left, from my school yearbooks, personal journals, pictures, my first teddy bear, to even my own room. My most sacred possession, my baptism bible and my cedar chest were gone, given to a younger sibling to use as a toy chest. It hurt.

Seriously hurt.

I didn't journal for a long time. Then I started journaling again during my first marriage. Not realizing how paranoid and freaked out my first husband would get when he found out I was journaling, I should have kept them hidden better. Unfortunately, I didn't. He found them, read them, then burned them. 

Again, I was immensely devastated. How could I ever trust anyone again? How could I ever put my personal feelings and thoughts to paper and expect them to be respected?

It wasn't until I got my first personal computer that I started journaling again. This time, I kept my journal on my computer under a secured password. But, it just wasn't the same.

I like writing by hand when I put my personal thoughts in journal format. And, I needed paper journals, not electronic ones.

So, eventually, I moved from the computer journal to individual journal books. At today's count, there are several very large rubbermaid tubs filled with journals. 

t was hesitant at first to try anything but dry mediums so I attempted the Sharpie markers first. And then moved on to colored pens, and finally colored pencils. I must admit, the colored pencils background is my favorite background. It brings out a subtleness that soothes me. 

I wish all my pages were like that. I could take the time and create them if I wanted, no one is stopping me and I have a permission to create, right? 

My last dry medium was doodling with crayons and that was just too much fun for anyone. I had a blast. Putting a lot of pressure on the paper, I got a darker result, backing off on the pressure, produced a lighter color. I was very enthusiastic about creating that background and would have done more, but had to reign myself in.

Finally, I moved on to watercolors. I tried using a sponge the first time, wanted to make a mottled effect. Which kinda worked as soon as I figured out the ratio of water to color. I used purple, which is one of my favorite colors. I moved on to my next favorite color, pink, and chose a brush for the next page and next technique. I noticed a much different stroke with the brush. I went over the page several times. Lightly at first, then with bolder strokes; the color getting pinker and darker as I covered the page. However, as most everyone else noticed, as the pages dried, the edges curled.

After the watercolor pages dried, I noticed the lines from the journal nearly disappeared, which was freeing in a way, it gave me a new found freedom to write anywhere on the page in whatever format I wanted. 

Which I did. 

The page was softer, more receptive to the pen. On those pages that were not receptive to the pen, like the crayon doodle, I used stickers and such and created a collage of flowers and letters to create words that stimulated me. 

Like “Dream” “hope”, “Inspire”,  “believe”, “faith”, and “joy”. “Dream” is a word that I have all over my office in various formats.

I do like the dryer mediums better, only because I’m not as comfortable with the wetter mediums, which will have to come with practice.  

I wouldn’t rule anything out. I learned that if I gag the critic inside of me, I can be creative. If I gag and lock the critic in the closet and I can have fun being creative in a journal that I thought was only for words!

I now have several journals. Each with their own purpose. I have my general journal, which is my "go to" writing source for anything that is going on in my life.

I have a visual journal which I use to paste words, phrases, pictures cut from magazines, images and stickers from collections from arts and craft stores like Michaels. This is a fun and very relaxing way to keep your mind occupied and help reduce your stress and anxiety. I know it works for me.

I also have a prayer journal. This is a very important journal to me. I use it to write in prayers to God, asking Him for His guidance, support, help, comfort, and to to the same for those I know who are in need.

Then, I have this really unique journal I found in the clearance section at our local Super Target. It's titled, The Chuck it List - 1000 Things I'll NEVER do before I Die.

Did you know about the benefits of Journaling? 

Benefits of Journaling

Medical studies show that writing about trauma or emotions helps people experience happiness, or an increase in health and productivity.
James Pennebaker, discovered that people who use writing to make sense of their traumatic life experiences feel happier and less anxious.  Through his studies, Pennebaker found that those who made meaning out of their gained insight from writing were healthier than those who simply wrote the details of their day.

Simply put: Words Heal. Founder and President of WRITECOVERY, Inc, Vicki M Taylor says, writing is a powerful tool for individuals who are struggling with the healing process.” She went on to say, “Words heal. Once you get the story out on paper, it’s out of your mind and you can move on.”

“Writing is a process,” says Stephen King. Although he meant it for fiction writing, he was never more right when it comes to journal writing. Writing is a process.  It helps us understand what’s going on inside of us. It helps us sort out the emotions building up inside of us that threaten to blow. We have thoughts racing around in our mind, what do we do? We get out our journal and we write. And write. And write until the thoughts no longer run through our mind but race along the pages of our journal.

Journaling can have an overall healing affect on those with physical and mental illnesses. Doctors see it all the time. The patient uses the journal to track their illness, their symptoms, their thoughts and feelings about what they’re experiencing. Before long, they’re writing about how they’re coping, dreaming about what they’re going to do when they get well, and thinking about ways to help themselves improve their health.

 If you desire, you can share your journal with your physician or mental health professional if you feel it might help your case. If not, don’t. It’s yours. It’s private. Don’t be pressured into exposing your private thoughts.

If you’ve never written in a journal before, it’s very easy. You don’t need a fancy journal or pen to start. A 3-ring binder, pen, pencil or even an online Microsoft Word or Text document is just fine to start.

Here is a simple start to journaling. Try writing first, then move on to more imaginative journals, like visual journaling, gratitude journaling, or even prayer journals.

Wait for a time when you have about   20 – 30 minutes of uninterrupted space.
  •         Indoors or outdoors, it doesn’t matter.
  • ·      Get comfortable.
  • ·      Have a beverage close by.
  • ·      You might want to start a ritual. Light a candle. Some Incense. Turn on soft music.

Open to a blank page. Identify the date. Some people like to identify the location as well. Then take a deep breath. Reach for your pen, set it to paper, and let your mind free.

Journaling is a liberating experience. Journaling is a healing experience. You’ll find that you’ll live a healthier, more spiritual, and less negative life. Joy will replace passivity. You’ll gain a new perspective, change your negative thought patterns, and find a way to let your inner critic out onto the pages of your journal instead of running around in your head wreaking havoc.

What are you going to write about?

You are going to write about anything and everything. It’s your journal. It’s your private thoughts. It’s a “judge free” zone. It can be a laundry list. It can be a bucket list. It can be a letter to the neighbor down the street who always leaves their trashcans in the middle of the street.

My point is this: Whatever pops into your mind, can pop onto the pages of your journal.

Try it for a week. See how refreshing and freeing it becomes. Don’t try the whole 20-30 minutes at once. Try for a little five minute practice and see how it works for you. Then, try it again. And again.

I bet before long, you’ll have thoughts in your mind and you’ll be longing to reaching for your journal to get them out of your head.

My suggestion to you is start carrying your journal around with you during the day, so you can slip away for a few minutes to write a sentence or two.

You know you’re going to want to. It’s going to feel that good.

Words Heal.