Deal With Stress

How To Use Journaling To Beat Stress

journaling to beat stressDo you often find yourself stressed and burdened with a perception of life as a “glass half-empty”? If you see yourself as a “glass half-empty” person, you may want to start a gratitude journal as a way out of negative thinking and stress.

The person who views life from the perspective of a “glass half-full” is an optimist who sees challenges as opportunity.  In contrast, the person who sees the world as a “glass half empty” tends to be a pessimist who focuses on the negative, or what opportunities or possessions they don’t have.  While what you are thinking and feeling may seem un-important as compared to what you may do or not do, in fact your perceptions and resulting thinking and decision making have a huge impact on your quality of life. Negative thinking habits create chronic stress in our body which gradually but relentlessly will destroy your health.

Can a simple change in attitude make a difference in our life?  The answer is a definite “yes”, as taught by many teachers and mentors and backed by scientific research. Tom Brown Jr., who runs a nature and survival school, emphatically states that attitude is paramount whenever a person finds themselves in an emergency survival situation.

An article by Margie Warrell on the Forbes website describes how optimists are happier, healthier and wealthier. Amazingly, research by psychologist Susan Segerstrom revealed that in a span of ten years after completing law school, graduates who were optimistic earned significantly more than their pessimistic “glass half-empty” classmates.

Mental health experts advise us to learn to re-frame a problem into opportunity. The philosopher and psychologist Will James said, “If you can change your mind, you can change your life”. The great physicist Albert Einstein advises us that “problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.”

So what can we do to empower our ability to re-frame our experiences and empower our ability to solve problems? A very powerful tool for reducing stress and set the stage for envisioning our life is through Journaling.

Journaling is a way to track our thoughts, feelings and perceptions.  There are a number of benefits of doing this.  The first is that we get to express ourselves … in essence, to vent frustrations and feelings that may not be appropriate otherwise.  The second is that it gives us the opportunity to become more aware of our thought processes.  Once we have spelled out a complaint or problem, we are empowered to put things into perspective and better access how to solve an unwanted situation.

The journal should be simple rather than burdensome. Journaling to beat stress, or gratitude journaling, is not simply a list of daily activities, but instead is a powerful tool that will help to remove blocks, limiting beliefs and fears.  It may often be only a few lines of what seems to be meaningless chatter.  But fifteen or thirty minutes a day to step outside ourselves and jot things down will gradually begin to open creative energy, help clarify thinking and reduce stress.

I especially love the books on journaling by Julie Cameron; The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, and The Vein of Gold, a Journey to Your Creative Heart.

The journal is not to be shared with any one; it is a tool for “your eyes only”.  If another person is going to read what you have written, there is a tendency to write for that person.  The journal is for personal use only, and is a safe way to explore our inner workings and open doors.

There is a powerful effect from writing something down; it activates your kinesthetic intelligence and brings in a very empowering facet of your mind-body to play when dealing with problems. It is especially empowering for those who are the five percent of the population who are primarily kinesthetic learners, those who are often referred to as “do-ers”, who learn by carrying out a physical activity rather than listening to someone talk or watching a demonstration

Often, just the act of writing things down will help diminish any negative thinking.  As an example, teenage girls who journal about their negative body image are better able to dismiss these destructive social stereotypes, empowering their ability to be themselves instead of striving to meet an unrealistic and unhealthy image of what they think they should look like.

One technique for using writing to “dump” negative thinking or feelings is to write them down on paper, and then throw the paper away or burn it in the fireplace.  Of course, this would not be a part of the daily journal, which is a progressive journey and often most helpful in working through problems over time. Throwing something written away or burning it is a tool for getting rid of negative feelings and thoughts that you recognize as burdensome but that won’t seem to quit recycling in our mind.

When you experience an especially joyful or inspiring, or something positive that you have shared with others, write down those experiences.  These experiences help remind you of what is good in life, and those gifts that you do have. When stress begins to overpower your life, there is a tendency to slide into a perspective where you focus on what you don’t have, rather than the opportunities that are around you.  It is all too easy to lose sight of the talents and gifts you have that are a benefit to others. One of the reasons that the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is such a beloved classic is that it is the story of one man’s journey from despair to realizing that each of us has a purpose in life and gifts to share, and that “keeping up with the Jonses” is a dead end.

When you express your gratitude for what you do have, you also recall those talents and gifts that you can share with others.  One of my friends and mentors who is an acupuncturist and healer considers gratitude to be a vital component of happiness and an important measure of physical health; he calls it the “gratitude quotient”.  Gratitude journaling helps you to remember that the glass is half-full, and that you can change your life.

Journaling is a powerful tool for dealing with stress, especially for those issues that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with others.  Medical research shows that journaling strengthens the immune system and helps to reduce symptoms of chronic health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. It can help you to empower your coping skills. Taking a few minutes a day to write in your journal enables you to reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Although it is a very simple activity, journaling is a wonderful do-it-yourself tool that can help deal with stress and open doors to creativity and wellness.

Do you keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings?  How has this helped you?  I would love to hear about what you do to sustain self-healing in the Comments section below.

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