LifeJournal Newsletter– February 2014

This month marks the beginning of my thirteenth year writing the LifeJournal newsletter. When I started it I hadn’t any idea there would be so much to discuss within the journal world. I’ve learned a lot as I bring this information to you and hope that you have benefited, too. 

And today is my birthday! Help me celebrate—please become a fan of I would love to see a jump of 50 new fans. (It’s a challenge…can we do it!?)  Just go to and click the LIKE button.

The LifeJournal facebook page is filled with quotes, links to articles about journal writing, info about famous journal writers,  info about research about journal writing, LifeJournal news and reminders of IAJW events.  It keeps you in touch with your journaling self every day. (And don’t forget to tell your journal writing buddies sign up too!)

Our February IAJW members-only telechat is with psychotherapist and author Susan Borkin. Her third book, The Healing Power of Writing, is to be published next month by W. W. Norton.  Learn more about the interview that takes place live on Thursday, February 13.  Please join us as this will be a really useful and information-packed hour!

Of course, IAJW members can join this interview live as well as listen to 40+ recorded interviews with such journal writing luminaries as Natalie Goldberg, Christina Baldwin, Mark Matousek, James Pennebaker, and more.  Become an IAJW member now!

Take advantage of this excellent online course with essayist, poet, and author Sheila Bender’s online course, From Journal Entry to Personal Essay. In this six week course, you’ll first receive valuable material to get you thinking about personal essays, and then you receive one-on-one feedback (and follow up on a revision) about a personal essay that you write and submit to Sheila.  It’s all set up so that you have great flexibility with the schedule.  Learn more and sign up here. This is a well-priced and special opportunity!

There are two articles in this month’s newsletter:

  • Journal Writing as a Do-It-Yourself Project 
  • The LifeJournal Search Function and how it is a built-in perspective changer (and why that matters!)


Write your story. Change your life.

Ruth Folit — LifeJournal Software–click the LIKE button!

Have questions? Email; or, call 877-456-8762; or,go to the LifeJournal Support page.

PS If you have gmail, there is a new format with tabs which separates your email into primary, social and promotions.  If you want to find future LifeJournal newsletters more quickly, click and drag this email into your “primary’ tab.

Journal Writing: A Do-it-yourself Project

by Ruth Folit

Journal writing is usually considered a do-it-yourself project. Yes, thank you, I’ll do it my way, the way I want to. And it SHOULD be. Journal writing is a highly individual and personal activity–one that is usually private, and an activity that doesn’t require anyone, ANYONE to tell you how to do it. 

So where does this concept of journal classes, journal software, journal guidance, journal coaching come in? Doesn’t this seem antithetical to the very essence of the process?  Well, yes….and no. 

The yes is that, indeed, your journal is YOUR journal.  Not mine.  Not your spouse’s journal or your coach’s journal or your teacher’s or your therapist’s.  It’s really the way you want to do it. No quarrels with that. 

Then how do I square that up with this concept of journal classes, an interactive journal (e.g. LifeJournal software) the International Association for Journal Writing and any other course, study, coaching? 

Here’s my perspective:  During the last 60ish years (dating back to Ira Progoff developing the Intensive Journal)  there’s been an increase in interest in ways to journal that will bring out your best.  Some of this is based on the experience of therapists who have worked with hundreds, even thousands of journal keepers.  Some are based on journal teachers who facilitate groups of people who learn to or keep journals. Some are based on the research scientists have discovered that writing helps general health, blood pressure, insomnia, getting a job, increasing working memor, etc.  And then they’ve dug deeper to find out what writing practices works better.  You might call this best practices–the general term for ways to journal that have been found to be (statistically speaking) more effective.  Things like—

  • Shift your perspective rather than writing the same story over and over and over. For example, write about both your feelings and your thoughts. Or write from another person’s viewpoint. 
  • It’s not generally beneficial to write immediately after a trauma. Wait several weeks, or even months. 
  • Write about what you are grateful—in a varied and meaningful ways so it doesn’t become a dull, reflexive gratitude list, but one in which you are meaningfully engaged. Writing about what you are grateful has been shown to improve one’s physical health and mood. 

Even the most accomplished woodworker-, gardener-, interior decorator- do-it-yourselfers read books and articles and learn from the experts so they can apply the best practices to their situation. They use top-quality tools and learn how to keep them sharp and use them effectively.  And because journal writing is such a solo sport, it’s even more important to get trusted input. It keeps you from getting stuck in a rut.

However, there’s always a caveat that goes with any do-it-yourself info and one which I wholeheartedly subscribe to: The best do-it-yourselfers take expert information, try it and experiment with it. They then perhaps modify it (or even throw it out completely) after considering whether it may work well with them.>This article is posted in the LifeJournal blog. I’m interested to hear your thoughts about whether you agree with and want to learn more about effective journaling, or simply just want to do it yourself. Click this link and comment there.

©Ruth Folit

Shifting Your Perspective: The LifeJournal Search Function

By Ruth Folit

One of the big breakthroughs within the journal writing world was recently discovered by social psychologist James Pennebaker, when he did research analyzing the writing of people in the study and compared it to their health. He recognized that when the writer had a shift in the use of pronouns their health changed. In his ground breaking book The Secret Lives of Pronouns, Pennebaker tells us that people who shifted from writing in the the first person (I and me) to third person (he, she or they) during the course of four consecutive writing sessions were the ones most likely to show an improvement in their health.

In speaking with Pennebaker on several occasions about the concept of shift in perspective, he pointed out that it doesn’t have to a be a shift in perspective from first to the third person that matters.  Any shift in perspective may be valuable.

With that in mind, I realized that just by reading your previous journal entries which were about a particular topic and then re-reading relevant entries in juxtaposition to each other would create a substantive shift in perspective.  LifeJournal, as you know, allows you to do just that.

Imagine (perhaps you don’t have to) that you are having some difficulty with a family member—a parent, sibling, spouse, offspring, in-law, boy/girl friend. You could perform a search of all journal entries that you wrote about that topic. The results of the search might include interactions that you had with him/her in the distant past (a Life History journal entry, for example); dreams that included this figure; and of course, more recent real-life conversations.  You might have even referenced that person when discussing an interaction with someone else but that reminded you of your relationship with that other person.

To perform a search (on both LJ for Windows and LifeJournal Online) click the Search button in the application toolbar.  A dialog appears. Select the Topics that you have assigned to journal entries that you want to search.

In searching within LifeJournal search for the topic “Jim” or “Mom.” You’ll find that all journal entries that you have about that topic will be listed in the Journal Explorer feature.  Suddenly you have a perfect subset of your journal entries that include musings, observations, real and dreamt conversations,  and take place in different settings, in different circumstances, and in different eras of your life.

You may see how your relationship with that person has progressed if you chronologically read the entries. (Click the “date” label at the top of the list of entries in the Journal Explorer to sort by date. Then click each of the journal entries on the list to open and read.) 

Or, you may see your relationship hasn’t progressed appropriately and that you and the other are frozen in time, locked in a relationship from an event that perhaps happened five years ago. If you read with a detective’s eye, I can almost guarantee that you’ll see the person, yourself, and your relationship with them in a new light.  Aha! That’s the key: you’ve shifted your perspective simply by reading a particular grouping of journal entries.

And that is my point.  By simply using the LifeJournal Search feature and reading a selected set of journal entries, you will shift your perspective.

End Quotes

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”–George Eliot

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”  –Bertrand Russell

“You can’t see the world from somebody else’s point of view and not be changed.” — Lena Coakley

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