When facing a serious illness, people often find it difficult to express their feelings to others. Journaling provides a safe and private way for you to express these difficult feelings. It allows you to come to terms with cancer at your own pace and in your own way. Because journal writing helps you to focus on your innermost thoughts, it fosters coming to terms with illness and regaining a sense of control in your life.
What are the benefits of journaling?
Regular journaling can provide a way to make sense of life events, help us find meaning in them and even allow us to even see the lessons they have to teach us. It can help clarify your thoughts and feelings, which often leads to gaining valuable self-knowledge. Research has shown that writing about stressful experiences, such as illness and disease, results in better health and psychological well-being. Journaling also lets us engage both hemispheres of the brain, allowing the experience to become fully integrated in one’s mind. When people confront and work through an experience, it is understood more clearly. This can improve coping and sleep quality, reduce stress, and enhance social interactions, all of which result in better health.
How do I start journaling?
Follow the steps below to help you get started.
1. Make a plan. Choose a time of day that is most convenient for you. Then make a goal to write for 15 minutes, 2 days a week at that time. Once that becomes a routine, try adding a day.
2. Find a spot. Choose a place to write that is comfortable and relaxing – a place where you can be alone and focus on your thoughts.
3. Start writing. Write down whatever comes to mind. Let your mind wander and your words flow. Don’t edit yourself.
Once you are comfortable journaling, do not limit yourself to certain days or times. Journal whenever you have time or when you feel it can help you the most. Some individuals find it helpful to journal while they are waiting for appointments, as it helps to calm nerves and pass the time.
If you have a hard time thinking of what to write about or find yourself staring at the blank page, begin by writing “I don’t know what to write” over and over. Eventually, other words will come. You can also try writing about stories of your past to help begin the writing process. For example, you can journal about your first car or your experiences on your first day of school.
If writing does not come naturally to you, try making lists. Ideas for lists include:
• your best qualities
• what you need and want from your doctor
• things that make you happy
• count your blessings - keep an account of the good things in your life as well
• write unsent letters – a powerful way to let go of old resentment and move on
• Don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a journal entry.
• Always date your entries.
• If you prefer journaling on a computer, print off the pages and keep them in a notebook. This makes it easier to look back on and read later.
• Write what you want to write. Remember, the journal is for you.
• Inexpensive spiral notebooks, composition books, legal pads and sketchbooks allow you the freedom to be yourself and to express your thoughts and feelings honestly. Many people are reluctant to honestly write the hurt, anger, sadness and confusion they feel on fancy pages.