Writing for happiness: Personal journaling

On Myositis Support and Understanding's website, we have talked before about the benefits of medical journaling and those are very important. Today we want to encourage you to consider journaling as a mental and emotional exercise of healing.

Recently, Emily and Jerry Williams gave a talk at The Myositis Association’s Annual Patient Conference about the importance of writing and sharing your story for emotional benefits. Journaling can be private or shared with others and even if you choose to keep it for yourself, journaling can have great benefits.

Some of the most notable benefits of authentic writing are:

  • In writing, you can’t hide from your truth.
  • Writing is a great outlet, Get your emotions out and process them!
  • Explore details you may have missed that may lead you to peace.
  • Seeing the sum total of your experience, good and bad, puts it into perspective.
  • If you chose to share your story it can help others – this can give you a new purpose.

If you are interested in journaling where do you start?

An excerpt from Emily’s book, “The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease” will help! Each chapter has journal prompts to help the reader examine the information they learned from the chapter, but it can be used as a stand-alone exercise, too. We hope you enjoy it.

“Create Your Own Marvelous Transformation”

  1. Grab a notebook, a journal, or any old pen and paper. At the top of the page, write a heading with the date and your name […].
  2. Take ten minutes (set a timer if you can) to purge your mind and soul of your thoughts and feelings about your condition. It can be in the style of stream-of-consciousness writing, or a simple bulleted list, whichever suits you best. Describe or make a list of the things you currently think, feel, and believe about your health, your life, your limitations, and successes, your wants and desires. These instructions are purposely vague and open-ended. There is nothing too small, silly, strange, intense, or superficial to deserve to be written down.
  3. After ten minutes, stop writing, take a deep breath, and allow yourself a moment to process what you wrote. Read it over and notice if any points, either as you wrote them or now while you are reviewing them, cause a physical reaction within you. Do you notice any physical pain or sensations like heart racing, body tingling, stabbing, or lifting? Do you feel a knot in your stomach? Did you tear up at any point? Did you laugh? Feel embarrassed? Take note of the items that resonate most powerfully for you and circle them (it could be single words, phrases, or a particular paragraph). Any physical or emotional reaction is an indicator that you’ve put your finger on a raw element that you are ready to address and heal. The items you circled are the most potentially transformative issues in your life. Congratulations for having identified them.
  4. Next, turn the page and draw a vertical line down the middle of it. Look at your circled items, and find the ones that express something negative (it may be all of them, and that is perfectly okay). For each negative feeling or thought you circled, formulate a declarative sentence that most straightforwardly expresses the issue. For example, you may have circled the phrase “I don’t think this next treatment will solve anything and I’m close to giving up hope.” You would translate this into the simple sentence: “I feel hopeless.” If you wrote a bulleted list and one of the words was “sad,” turn it into the declarative statement, “I feel sad,” or “I am always sad.” Write these negative sentences to the left of your vertical line.
  5. When you have a statement for each of the negative circled items written down in the left column (perhaps it’s one or two, or maybe you’ve written two dozen—however it unfolds is exactly how it’s meant to be), go back to the top and consider the first statement. Think about what the exact opposite of that negative statement would be, and write it down in the right-hand column. For example, if you wrote, “I feel hopeless,” the positive opposite could be “I have hope.” If you wrote, “I’m afraid,” write “I’m brave.” If you wrote “Life sucks,” the opposite could be “Life is beautiful.” If you wrote, “I’m tired and can’t take this anymore,” the counter might be, “I am full of energy and can handle anything that comes my way.” Make sure you complete the whole list and that you come up with a positive counter statement to each of your negative sentences. You may notice as you write out the opposite to each negative thought or feeling that a part of you that can’t help but agree with the positive statement. You really do have hope. Life really is beautiful. You truly are strong. If you don’t feel the truth in any of the opposite assertions right now, that’s okay, too. Transformations don’t have to happen overnight. Simply allow your mind to absorb the positive opposites to what you originally expressed, and trust that your subconscious is listening. For now, just allow these positive truths to live on the pages of your journal.”

(* The above is from pages 6-8)

Once you start writing down your feelings and emotions you will find that they get easier and easier to express. You will notice that as you get in touch with your feelings that you can handle the events of your life more easily. If you find that you write something that you think will help others, please share it with us on the “Share Your story” link of the MSU site.

Journaling can be private or shared with others and even if you choose to keep it for yourself, journaling can have great benefits.

For more journaling prompts and other life-affirming information, please read Emily’s Book, The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease.

Emily has made a special offer to Myositis Support and Understanding fans. Purchase The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease through this linkhttp://www.emilyfilmore.com/marvelous-transformation-msu and Emily will donate 40% of the list price to MSU. Help yourself and help MSU at the same time!!

Originally published at Myositis Support and Understanding Association, Inc. (2015).