Over the years we’ve welcomed tens of thousands of people into the LifeJournal community. As we approach Thanksgiving here in the United States, I want to thank each and every one of you. I hope your life has been enriched by journaling with LifeJournal. Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!
A GREAT OPPORTUNITY! From Journal Essay to Personal Essay, with Sheila Bender is a special online flexible course now available at a discount for a limited time. This is a fabulous way to work with Sheila Bender, a loved and highly regarded writing coach, essayist, author, and poet–and the content partner for the Writer’s Add-on. If you have ever considered writing for a audience larger than yourself, this is a fantastic offering to learn more about how to write a personal essay, and then work one-on-one, getting feedback directly from Sheila on a draft essay and two revisions! Click here to learn more and sign up.
I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Jamie Pennebaker and Dr. John Evans about The Essentials of Writing for Health in October. For those who don’t know Dr. Pennebaker, he is the researcher who first discovered the link between expressive writing and better health. Pennebaker and Evans co-authored a book Expressive Writing for Health, due out in February 2014. What I loved about this interview is that it combines viewpoints from both researcher (Pennebaker) and clinician (Evans) —a wonderful mix of theory and practice. The Pennebaker and Evans telechat is now available for IAJW members to listen. Not an IAJW member yet? Join!
There are two articles in this newsletter. One is a thanks in a personal way to Jamie Pennebaker for his research. If you have had a similar moment in your life, write the story and send it to me. I’d love to hear about it.
The second article is discussing whether to destroy a particularly painful journal entry. Have you ever done that? Well, there’s a third option that might just be a prefect solution.
Write your story. Change your life!
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by Ruth Folit
Years ago, when I was in my 30s our two kids were young. I was busy, actually overwhelmed at times with a household of constant doing—interacting with my kids and their friends; helping them with schoolwork;, schlepping to soccer games, tai kwon do practice, orthodontist appointments, friend’s houses; shoe horning in a part time job; endlessly food shopping and cooking meals; overseeing the maintenance of the house and car; planning and going on vacations; working out and biking; spending time with my husband and friends. You know the drill—many are in the thick of it now, or can relate with hopefully fond memories of those golden family years.
Yikes! And I’m an introvert. I love my time alone. One day, I looked around and scratched my head: how did I ever get myself into this position where I was constantly surrounded by people, and where I rarely had time to myself?
And then I remembered: I used to journal during my late teens and early 20s. So I went to buy a black bound unlined sketchbook, not just a spiral notebook, in order to make a statement of commitment to myself. I began to keep a journal in earnest again. I’d close the door to a room in the house many an evening, and write for 20-30 minutes after the kitchen was cleaned up and the kids were in bed.
I’d write about whatever was on my mind. Complain about how it was all about “them” and then write about what a gift it was to be a part of this wonderfully full and sweet and dynamic family. Dream about what I’d do if I had time for myself. Sketch a doodle that flowed from my hands. Chew over a conversation I had with my husband or a good friend. Think about the best way to approach a child’s behavior that I wasn’t happy with, and reflect upon whether it was really me who had to change and model my behavior differently so that their behavior would follow suit. Wonder how best to react to some parent group at school. Fume over habits of family members and balance them out with lists of their finest qualities. On and on.
After unloading in writing, I’d close my journal and open the door. It was palpable. I was a different person who walked out of that room than had walked in less than an hour ago. The frazzled, tired, and oppressed woman who walked into that room was transformed by writing words. WRITING WORDS!
It was undeniable. I felt lighter, freer, upbeat. Smiling. A bounce in my step and a calmness within.
The first time I noticed it, it caught me by surprise. I have a visceral memory standing on the oak floor by the wooden bookcase upstairs, a radiance from within glowing warm amber light. A glow created from words. Transformative. It’s such a vivid memory. I think that internal snapshot is what has taken me here—about 25 years later —to spread the message and tools and information about journaling. Journaling only costs a little, is accessible to anyone, and creates inner joy and serenity.
Years later when I learned about social psychologist Dr. Jamie Pennebaker’s studies demonstrating that writing about emotional turmoil and upheaval can improve health I quietly smiled. I experientially knew what Pennebakers’ landmark research had proven in a rigorous, scientific way. I felt affirmed by the evidence Pennebaker and others provided—that statistically speaking, writing about emotional issues can boost immune systems, minimize symptoms in ill people, improve grades in school, help people sleep better and have a better working memory.
Thanks, Jamie, you provided the concrete evidence that I couldn’t deny yet couldn’t fully explain.
by Ruth Folit
I’ve had discussions with people that they want to destroy a journal entry that they’ve just written. They want to burn it, rip it into shreds, and do away with it totally. Have you ever felt that way?
I have a slightly different attitude: I think that all of my writing–good, bad, beautiful and ugly–reflect me in some way. I know I’m a complex person–and I think that each of is–and I accept that my entries are filled with good stuff and not so good stuff. So with that perspective, I think twice before I destroy any journal entry.
Mostly, I think that if I re-read an entry after some time passes, and with my compassionate-colored and/or emotionally-detached reading glasses firmly in place, I will see the situation or myself from a different point of view.
I came up with an idea that would let me have my cake and eat it, too. (That’s a favorite kind of solution—second to eating my cake and not gaining weight…)
The notion is to type your journal entry in LifeJournal. For those times when after writing an entry you think—geez, I’d like to rip this one up, here’s an alternative: If your background of the journal entry is white, then change the color of the text to white. Then, the entry is white on white and you can’t read it. UNTIL, of course, you change the text color back to black or some other color that allows you to read it. Keep the title in black, so you know what it’s about. And maybe have one sentence left in black with the warning: “POTENTIALLY TOXIC.”
That way you have in effect, deleted/removed/ripped up your entry—but if you are feeling like you want to re-read and understand your full uncensored self, then you can do so with just a simple manipulation of the text color settings.
There’s an alternative, too, if you like, that may feel good: Print the entry, and then rip it up, burn it, shred it, or destroy it in some grand, dramatic way. There IS something cathartic about that physical act of destroying an entry that was filled with something that you want to expunge from your life.
I invite you to try out LifeJournal Online. As always, you can try before you buy with 15 entries and limited Prompts, Quotes and Wisdom files available in trial mode.
Click here to subscribe to LifeJournal Online now! The annual fee for LifeJournal Online is an incredible $27. A very reasonable price for safe, secure, and private online journaling from both computers and tablets. If you already have the LifeJournal Online trial and are ready to subscribe, click the SUBSCRIBE link (in the top right navigation bar) within the LifeJournal Online trial.
Click here to buy a key for LifeJournal for Windows. You can buy Add-Ons here, too.
Gillie Bolton, British expert on journal writing will be my guest at the November IAJW monthly telechat called, The Writer’s Key: Creative Solutions for Life. As researcher, author, editor, and clinician, Gillie has much to offer us to move forward and deeper in our journal writing. The interview will be recorded and posted by November 25. Click here to learn more.
Recent month’s IAJW telechats include Dr. Jamie Pennebaker and Dr. John Evans, Dennis Palumbo, Mark Matousek Barbara Abercrombie, Pat Schneider, and Natalie Goldberg. IAJW members can listen to these telechats here. Not an IAJW member yet? Sign up here.
>”My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” – Anais Nin
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”–Graham Greene
“I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.”–Anna Quindlen