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    "Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. "
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David Baxter

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How To Start A Healing Journal
By Scott Davis
Mon, Dec 17 2007

I believe in the healing power of creative expression, and especially in the power of writing. Writing allows you to have a safe place to explore your own emotions and feelings, and it has an incredible way of helping you connect with your inner self. I think that if you learn to write, and you learn to trust your writing, you will be well along the path to recovery...

Getting Started
The first big decision to make when you are starting a journal is to decide whether you will be writing by hand or using a computer. I always write my journal by hand because I find that it allows me to be much closer to my writing than using a keyboard. Writing by hand also allows you to write anywhere, which is a pretty big bonus. I love writing in coffee shops, but I hate lugging my laptop along.

If you decide to write by hand, the next thing to do is get something to write with, and something to write on. Pen and paper. Here?s where you get to have a little fun. Go out and buy yourself a notebook and a pen. Treat yourself. One of the big secrets about writing is that it is actually pretty enjoyable, and it is great to have a good pad and pen, so splurge a bit.

Once you have picked out your notebook and pen, it?s time to start writing.

Just Write!
In her book, The Artist?s Way, writer Julia Cameron teaches a form of journaling called "Morning Pages". I have found morning pages to be one of the best ways to keep a journal, and they are also a very good healing tool.

The instructions for writing morning pages are very simple. Every morning, before you do anything else, you write three pages in your journal. You can write about anything. If you want to write a story, write a story. If you want to make a list, make a list. If you can?t think of anything to write, just write ?I can?t think of anything to write because?? and keep on going. Write whatever you want, and then go on with your day.

Morning pages take a while to work. It took me about 3 weeks of writing morning pages before I began to see a difference in my life, however once I got into the habit, I began to notice subtle changes in how I felt. I noticed a drop in my anxiety and I found it easier to manage stressful situations. As time goes by, you will begin to trust your morning pages as a safe refuge. No matter what is troubling you, you will know that next morning you can write about it in your morning pages.

In additional to morning pages, I also write in my journal every night. In the evening I usually try to review my day. I write a few words about what happened that day, how I feel about it, and any questions or concerns that are bothering me. I find that writing these evening notes helps me rest my mind before I go to sleep so that I?m not lying in bed awake, stewing over things, and when I wake up, I?m ready to write about the questions that I wrote down in my evening notes the night before. Together, morning pages and evening notes form a daily cycle that keeps me grounded and stable.

Privacy
When I began keeping a journal, one of my biggest fears was that someone else would find it and read it. To be honest, I still worry sometimes that someone will get hold of my journal. I?ve got all my private thoughts and fears in there, and I?d be devastated if someone else read my journal without my permission.

That said, I also find that keeping a journal makes me feel very secure. There is something comforting about having a place where I can write my deepest fears and highest hopes. It?s like having a secret refuge.

There?s no foolproof way to protect your journal. When I first started writing my journal, I used a computer, so I could password protect the files, but now that I am writing by hand, I don?t really have any way of protecting them. To be honest, I usually just toss my journal on my desk or nightstand and don?t think about it.

However, if you are just starting a journal, it is important to find a way to protect it. Some people buy locking notebooks, or lock their journals in their desks. This can provide a sense of security. Some people carry their journals with them all the time.

If you are living with people who you can trust, another way to keep your journal private is to tell them that you are keeping a journal. That way they will know that if they do find your journal, they aren?t supposed to read it.

Sharing Your Journal
I almost never share my journal. It is far too personal and I usually find it very difficult to explain what I mean when I try to tell people about what I have been writing. Plus, a lot of what I write in my journal makes me feel very vulnerable, and I?m not always ready to open that vulnerability to other people.

My advice is that you should only share what is in your journal if you are comfortable doing so. It is your journal, your thoughts, and your feelings. If you want to share them, then share them. If you want to keep them to yourself, then keep them to yourself. Your journal is for you only. There is no reason for anyone else to read it.

As you get more into the habit of keeping a journal, you may find that it becomes easier for you to talk about your thoughts and your feelings without feeling exposed or vulnerable. When I was in therapy for PTSD, I rarely shared my deepest thoughts with my therapist, but because I was keeping a journal, I found that I could talk to him more openly about my fears. It?s as though the journal gave me a safe place to look at my thoughts and choose which ones I felt safe taking to my therapist.

There will be people who say that you should tell them what you are writing in your journal. They usually begin by saying something like ?I?m afraid that you are writing things about me.? Well maybe you are. It is none of their business. Don?t let anyone pressure you into revealing what you have written. It will only leave you feeling betrayed and vulnerable.

Reading Your Journal
Every 2 months or so, I?ll go back and quickly skim through my journal. I used to read it every week, but I found that didn?t really help me. I would see that something I didn?t like (?my boss was such a jerk on Monday!?) and then I?d get it stuck in my head. By waiting longer to read it, I found that I was able to see things in a broader perspective. (?Oh that was when my boss got mad at me. I found out later that he was having problems with his boss.?)

When I read through my journal, I try to see what I have been thinking and whether there are any patterns emerging in my life that I have missed. Sometimes I?ll write down certain keywords or recurring themes, or I?ll write down notes about relationships or issues that are bothering me. These reviews let me get a better idea of the big picture and they help me keep a better perspective on my life.

Healing
It can be difficult to sense how your journal is helping you heal. I find that keeping a journal keeps me feeling grounded; that no matter how much something bothers or confuses me, I can write out my feelings. I have also found that keeping a journal has helped me understand some of the larger patterns in my life. One of the greatest gifts of journaling is how it can broaden your perspectives.

In my opinion, the greatest benefit that journaling can bring, is that it can give you a very strong sense of safety and security. Writing things down has a way of making problems seem a little less scary and a little easier to manage. The first time that I wrote about the man who molested me, it made him seem less frightening. He was still a monster, but he was a monster who couldn?t stop me from writing about how he made me feel, and by writing down how he made me feel, I gained a bit more safety and he became a bit less scary. Even now, when
something is really scaring me or making me sad, I always write about it and I always find that the writing has made me feel a little better about things.

That?s really the gift of writing. It gives you a place where you can be completely honest with yourself, where you can talk about your pain in safety, and where you can connect with your innermost thoughts. Writing may not be able to completely heal the pain and frustration of mental illness, but it does help you build a safe, solid foundation in your life.
 

Halo

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Wow, what an amazing article. I really found this part interesting:

As you get more into the habit of keeping a journal, you may find that it becomes easier for you to talk about your thoughts and your feelings without feeling exposed or vulnerable. When I was in therapy for PTSD, I rarely shared my deepest thoughts with my therapist, but because I was keeping a journal, I found that I could talk to him more openly about my fears.
 

poohbear

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I'm just getting back "into" trying to keep a journal. I'm only abe to do it, every other week, when I'm not working such long hours. But, it is helpful to write. Also, I still have a few of my old ones, although now I am now trying to use my PC to keep one. I reviewed them a while back (which prompted me to want to start again!) and I DID see a pattern. There was one issue that kept coming up-- my failing marriage. Hmmm... shoulda' done this (the separation/divorce) a LONG time ago! LOL! (laughing is my only option...I've been too sad for too long!) When the consequences make things difficult, it's nice to review the old journals to find validation for my choices, however difficult they were to make. :dimples:
 
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I think journals are great. I just started keeping one a few weeks ago and I come from the mentality that "Journals are for girls"...

Make sure it doesnt look like a journal though. I keep everything in a black and white composition notebook labeled "Math". Its a last line of defense.

Here's what Ive been working on... Its a black and white composition notebook with 5 blank pages devoted to the following topics. I try to carry it with me by leaving it in my car and looking at it at night. Whenever I read something or have a solid Idea I try to remember it and add it to a section in the book. For example, I just wrote in number 2 "General Day to Day Tips" - "Its OK to watch TV as long as you dont sit down. This way youll do something productive while watching and wont watch more than 30 minutes"

1) Motivational Quotes
2) General Day to Day Tips
3) Creating an Environment for Change
4) Things You Can Do to Get Rid of Depression
5) List Everything Bad About Yourself
6) Day to Day Unproductive Acts
7) Easy Problems You Can Overcome Tomorrow
8) Hard Problems That Will Take Effort
9) What Makes You Awkward When Alone With People
10) Worst Case Scenario / The 30 Yea Old You
11) Short Term Goals
12) Long Term Goals
13) Everything Good About Yourself
14) Relaxing Activities That Are Productive
15) Hobbies People Can Relate To
16) Characteristics Society Values
17) Stupid Items You Want
18) Financial Work

Good idea? Bad idea? Does anyone do anything similar?
 
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i think overall your idea is a good one. i keep a notebook too with quotes and thoughts that i want to make sure i don't forget about, such as motivational thoughts or things that i find are very meaningful and helpful to me.

one question i do have is why have a section on everything bad about you? seems to me that would kind of drag you down :)
 
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one question i do have is why have a section on everything bad about you? seems to me that would kind of drag you down :)

It doesnt make sense but for some reason its comforting. When I put everything bad about myself down on a piece of paper its almost calming. A few things go through my head...

- I dont have to "worry" about anything else. Everything bad about me is on one or two pages of paper. I have no other character faults other than the ones Ive mentioned. Its almost like "Im perfect other than a few problems written down on this little sheet of paper"

- It allows you to organize your problems into categories. I realized when I did this half of my bad qualities could be solved TOMORROW. Things like..."I dont get enough sleep, my hygene sucks, I dont have nice clothes, im a little overweight, I treat my Mom poorly etc... I could erase half of my list tomorrow if I just focused on a few things.

- It also lets you see plain and clear what you need to work on and what your goals need to be. I think some of my depression stems from the fact that I dont know what I need to do to beat it. When I look at that list I can work towards overcoming it.
 

ladylore

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Hi Maynard - I love the list. :) Gave me a few ideas.

I keep a journal that looks leather bound - Its brown with some kind of artist's writing on the cover.
 
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mjk, i understand :) actually that is a technique with cbt as well - instead of trying to fight all your flaws, you instead acknowledge them and accept them. by accepting them it takes away the power they have in your thoughts. i just wanted to make sure that it was helpful to you what you were doing, and this indeed is the case. :goodjob:
 

lallieth

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It doesnt make sense but for some reason its comforting. When I put everything bad about myself down on a piece of paper its almost calming. A few things go through my head...

- I dont have to "worry" about anything else. Everything bad about me is on one or two pages of paper. I have no other character faults other than the ones Ive mentioned. Its almost like "Im perfect other than a few problems written down on this little sheet of paper"

- It allows you to organize your problems into categories. I realized when I did this half of my bad qualities could be solved TOMORROW. Things like..."I dont get enough sleep, my hygene sucks, I dont have nice clothes, im a little overweight, I treat my Mom poorly etc... I could erase half of my list tomorrow if I just focused on a few things.

- It also lets you see plain and clear what you need to work on and what your goals need to be. I think some of my depression stems from the fact that I dont know what I need to do to beat it. When I look at that list I can work towards overcoming it.
It actually makes perfect sense to me.By allowing yourself to admit to where some of your problems lie,you are more able to fix them.And by writing them down,they aren't stuck in your head and your brain isn't going over them again and again.
 
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It actually makes perfect sense to me.By allowing yourself to admit to where some of your problems lie,you are more able to fix them.And by writing them down,they aren't stuck in your head and your brain isn't going over them again and again.

Yea. I feel like when Im depressed I have all these problems swirling around in my head. Its like looking through a small window and seeing a giant tornado right outside your window. You dont know how big it is. You dont know how much crap it has sucked up. You dont know where its headed. When you put your problems down on paper its like looking at the same tornado a half mile away. You can see it all and your not threatened by it.
 

lallieth

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Yea. I feel like when Im depressed I have all these problems swirling around in my head. Its like looking through a small window and seeing a giant tornado right outside your window. You dont know how big it is. You dont know how much crap it has sucked up. You dont know where its headed. When you put your problems down on paper its like looking at the same tornado a half mile away. You can see it all and your not threatened by it.
That's a great way to put it.So if it works for you and keeps the tornado's at bay..go for it :)
 

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