DIARY WRITING IMPROVES HEALTH
by Lee Johnson
Many people may be surprised that diary writing improves health. The strength of this mental health technique of venting has actually proven to extend into physical health. We all need a private place of safety to complain, explain, recant, or just express our deepest darkest thoughts and emotions without being judged or embarrassed.
The very first benefit is a sense of safety and privacy not afforded to us in other arenas. We know in this digital age, there is not much that is really safe or private. In your diary or journal, you can say anything you want without fears of rejection, misunderstanding, regret, or political incorrectness. This is the one place where you can always be yourself.
A journal is your sanctuary from the stress and demands of a hectic and profit oriented environment. Journaling is about the relationship you have with yourself. That is, your thoughts and feelings are vitally important to your self-esteem and sense of well being. We all have some secret thoughts or experiences we won’t tell even the people we trust. If it’s not expressed, our negative feelings stay inside and tend to fester(repression).
This primary psychological benefit is called “catharsis” which just means a release of emotions. This release lowers the tension and anxiety surrounding the past feeling or experience. If you ever visited a psychotherapist, the type of conversation you have was designed for this. Writing about emotions in an abstract sense has proven to be more beneficial than verbalizing them which tends to aggravate past trauma instead.
In terms of physical improvements, studies show that this exercise strengthens the immune system by increasing T-lymphocytes. Some studies show it helps with pain management, fatigue, lowers blood pressure and even helps depression. It’s stress reduction benefit decreases arthritis, insomnia, asthma symptoms, and other chronic conditions. So, there actually is a physical health improvement since mental health extend into the body. This physical result is similar to that derived from meditation, progressive relaxation, or other stress reduction techniques. That’s because serotonin and endorphins are released which are mood elevators and pain killers. Except, in this case, you also organize and solidify your thoughts and feelings.
Many of us had a diary as a child, but have given it up with the demands of mid-life. Well, it’s never too late to start or re-start. Writing about 3 times a week for 15 minutes is a good place to begin. Hand writing is a better form of expression than typing. You can write about the past, present or future, but don’t get stuck in the past. In my diary, I even say goodbye and write about people who have passed away and how I feel about that. So, this is a practice in taking care of yourself while appreciating and understanding life as it unfolds. L. Johnson More at: http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com
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