At Hawaii Naturopathic Retreat Center, we incorporate journaling into our programs. We ask patients to bring a journal with them and encourage them to make time during the day to be introspective.
The journal can be plain or a more sophisticated notebook. There are many software journaling programs available for computer use: LifeJournal, The Journal, My Journal, etc. You may even choose to express yourself through art. Or, combine art and words in your journal.
Journaling consists of recording one’s thoughts and feelings daily in a notebook. In the digital era many individuals may choose to use computer software or apps for tablets.
Written disclosure of thoughts and emotions contribute to health and well-being. It is very useful in the process of getting to know one oneself, goal setting, and getting organized. It has immediate benefits such as reducing stress and helping with focus.
Studies have found that writing about stressful and traumatic events –
- Decreases distress
- Decreases depression
- Leads to fewer illness related visits to physicians
- Contributes to positive changes in immune function
- Improves self reported health
- Improves psychological well-being
- Improves physiological functioning
- Improves general functioning
Journaling For Mental Health
It has long been believed that the expression of emotion is beneficial for mental health, whereas the inhibition of emotion is harmful. The inhibition of emotion can be considered a chronic stressor (something that is perceived as challenging, threatening or demanding). Prolonged and overwhelming stress that is not reduced or managed becomes destructive and can lead to mental emotional challenges like anxiety and depression. It can also leads to a decline in physical health. In addition mal-adaptive coping strategies like drinking alcohol, using tobacco or drugs to relieve stress can lead to addiction and cause more problems.
Disclosure of emotions and thoughts through journaling is thought to work because it allows for the expression of emotions and the subsequent release of symptoms that could indicate disease. In other words the symptoms were merely stress related. Expressing trauma-related emotions in a safe environment gives the individual a feeling of mastery and control over the traumatic event. Expressing trauma-related emotions contributes to desensitization of the emotional response to the traumatic event.
When you contemplate something, an event or an idea, it helps you to better understand it. In contemplative journaling you can focus your attention on one thing to create deeper understanding. George Boyd, an expert meditation teacher and author, recommends The Little Sun Method where you place an idea in a circle and then write down the thoughts or feelings that occur to you in spokes drawn from the circle.
You can also enquire deeper into an issue by turning the issue over and over in the mind and to discover its different facets and perspectives (philosophical enquiry). Or, you may formulate a question regarding the issue and repeat it over and over and each time writing down the response that comes to you.
Journaling is a commitment to oneself and it helps one to stay focused on the chosen path. It has helped many people on their path of recovery from addiction and anyone eager to embrace the journey of holistic health and mind body medicine.