A few months after my tenth birthday, my mother gave me my first Kahlil Gibran. My grandmother had just committed suicide in my childhood home and I was very upset. My mother was dealing with her own grief and told me to write about my feelings. I had no idea that that seemingly benign gesture would have lead to a life long passion for writing. The journal had the prophet’s quotes in small print on the top of each page, seemingly designed as an inspirational spark for the budding writer. In that journal, I recorded quotations, sentiments and reflections pertinent to my young life and issues about growing up.
Further down the road, I used my journals to help navigate through difficult times in my life, such as adolescence, bed rest for all three of my pregnancies, the trials and tribulations of raising three kids, the loss of my father and my early bout with breast cancer at the age of forty-seven. Over the years, many of my journal entries have become seeds for larger writing projects. As matter of fact, the journal of my first pregnancy later became the impetus for a self-help book for other women also enduring difficult pregnancies.
Now, more than fifty years and 200 journals later, journaling continues to play a vital role in my writing routine.
The Benefits of Journaling:
it is a companion and best friend
it improves mental health
it improves communication skills
it releases pent-up emotions
it encourages reflection
it clears the mind
it is empowering
it helps in the healing process
When life takes an unexpected turn, writing can be a beneficial, form of release from stress due to either emotional or physical factors. Regular journal writing can be as therapeutic as it is creative. Journaling is a process of self-discovery and a cathartic way to spill your feelings onto the page. Essentially, anyone can keep a journal about anything at any given time. I view journaling as a daily vitamin – it is healing, detoxifying and essential for optimal health.
Whether you’re affected by change, loss or pain, finding the time to write is critical to your healing process. Some people prefer to journal about their experience, while others may lean towards the fictional or poetic modalities to help them escape their own realities. Whatever your choice, once you try it, you’ll see that writing, in any form, can be healthy and empowering.
The main idea behind journaling is learning how to open up about yourself and the issues and situations in your life. For some people this takes a fair amount of practice, while others do it quite naturally. Once you begin you will observe that the process of expressing your feelings will make you feel better.
There are really no rules to keeping a journal, only suggestions. A journal can be anything you want it to be and there are many types of journals. For example, there are observation journals, travel journals, dream journals and gratitude journals. In the tradition of the Quaker diaries, Oprah Winfrey has long kept a gratitude journal. “I have kept a journal since I was 15 years old,” she has said. “As I’ve grown older, I have learned to appreciate living in the moment.” At night, she lists a minimum of five things she’s grateful for—no matter how small. She says that it’s been instrumental to her success. “What it will begin to do is change your perspective of your day and your life. I believe that if you can learn to focus on what you have, you will always see the universe is abundant,” she adds.
Journaling is a healthy way to cope during stressful times, and it could inspire you to enjoy the lifelong habit of journaling regardless of stress. The important thing is that you write from a deep place because the process is about having an authentic relationship with yourself. The more comfortable you are with your true self, the easier it will be for you to handle stress. Part of this process involves trusting your inner wisdom, intuition and heart. If you do this, your true inner voice will emerge on the page.
My new book, Writing for Bliss: Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life (September 2017), gives hands-on and accessible tips on how to share your story. Expressing yourself on the page is not only a way to stay mentally fit but it’s a way to minimize stress. Regular practice will help you will feel liberated and empowered.
How to Begin:
• buy a journal and pen that feel comfortable for you
• find a safe and quiet place to journal
• use a centering ritual (cup of tea, burning a candle, meditation)
• date your entries
• establish a routine; journal at the same time each day
• to start journal for 15-20 minutes
• write without editing or censoring
Some journaling prompts:
• write about a recent upheaval
• write a letter to someone alive or deceased
• write about your first memory
• describe your first room
• write about what makes you happy
• write about what makes you angry
• write about your accomplishments.
• write about a book which changed your life and why