Writing to Heal - Healing through Writing



Healing through Writing  

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Your Journal is Your Journey

We all have a story. Maybe your life-story goes smoothly without any ups and downs; maybe your life-story goes ahead with complex challenges and bumps. Maybe your story is brimming with bright smile, sad tears, brilliant daytime, solitary night, puerile childhood and sophisticated adult time. Anyway, it has its unique value of existence that it’s irreplaceable. Our experiences, our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and dreams all combine to form our life and our journey, which is our story. A great way to keep a relative reflection of all those things that have happened in our life is to keep a journal. 

A Journal Entry A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Whether you already keep a journal or want to start a Well-Being Journal, it is an amazing, supportive tool that you can give to yourself.

Writing is a creative activity, and the act of forming words carefully, with a pen, creates a reaction between your brain and hand that lets you think through the emotional impact while you are writing. Writing by hand slows down your thoughts and helps you concentrate.


The process goes beyond just keeping a diary or record of daily events; it’s about exploring your feelings and thoughts about what is going on in your life.

 The routine and habit of journaling means making time for you - When you set aside time for yourself, you can feel the benefit and gain from doing something specifically for yourself. It can show up in other areas of your life as you carry that time you have spent on yourself within you, and everywhere you go.

 Benefits of Journaling

Everything from improved school grades to a strengthened immune system to a change in life course. Aside from what the scientists have proven, there are many more benefits to journaling that we journalers have long known. Listed below are some of them. 

  • Reduces the scatter in your life

  • Reduce stress

  • Solve problems more effectively

  • Increases focus

  • Brings stability

  • Offers a deeper level of learning, order, action and release

  • Processes your stuff in a natural and appropriate way

  • Releases pent-up thoughts and emotions

  • Empowers

  • Disentangles thoughts and ideas

  • Bridges inner thinking with outer events

  • Detaches and lets go of the past

  • Allows you to re-experience the past with today's adult mind

  • Heals the past

  • Dignifies all events

  • Is honest, trusting, non-judgmental

  • Strengthens your sense of yourself

  • Acts as your own counselor

  • Integrates peaks and valleys in life

      Know yourself and your truth better:

  • Builds self confidence and self knowledge
  • Records the past
  • Helps you feel better about yourself
  • Helps you identify your values
  • Reads your own mind
  • Reveals the depths of who you are
  • Reveals outward expression of yet unformed inner impulses

  • Clarifies thoughts, feelings and behavior
  • Reveals your greater potential
  • Shifts you to the observer, recorder, counselor level
  • Creates awareness of beliefs and options so you can change them
  • Self-discovery
  • Reveals different aspects of self
  • Helps you see yourself as an individual

  • Connects you to the bigger picture
  • Is a close, intimate, accepting, trusting, caring, honest, non-judgmental, perfect friend
  • Accesses the unconscious, subconscious and super consciousness
  • Finds the missing pieces and the unsaid
  • Helps rid you of the masks you wear

Personal growth:

  • Is fun, playful and sometimes humorous
  • Expresses and creates
  • Plants seeds
  • Starts the sorting and grouping process
  • Integrates life experiences and learning's
  • Explores your spirituality
  • Focuses and clarifies your desires and needs
  • Enhances self expression
  • Allows freedom of expression
  • Exercises your mental muscles
  • Improves congruency and integrity
  • Enhances breakthroughs
  • Unfolds the writer in you

Enhances intuition and creativity:

  • Improves self trust
  • Awakens the inner voice
  • Directs intention and discernment
  • Provides insights
  • Improves sensitivity
  • Interprets your symbols and dreams
  • Increases memory of events

Captures your life story:

  • Teaches you how to write stories
  • Soothes troubled memories
  • Captures family and personal story
  • Stimulates personal growth


Dr. James Pennebaker

Dr James Pennebaker, a professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and author of several books, including "Opening Up" and "Writing to Heal," is a pioneer in the study of using expressive writing as a route to healing. Dr. James Pennebaker has been at the forefront of research showing that expressive writing – that is, writing about personal experience with emotional content – can lead to improvements in psychological and physical health. In recent years there, researchers have found that keeping a journal has a positive impact on physical well-being.


In his early research Dr. Pennebaker was interested in how people who have powerful secrets are more prone to a variety of health problems. If you could find a way for people to share those secrets, would their health problems improve?

It turned out that often they would, and that it wasn’t even necessary for people to tell their secrets to someone else. The act of simply writing about those secrets, even if they destroyed the writing immediately afterward, had a positive effect on health. Further studies showed that the benefits weren’t just for those who had dramatic secrets, but could also accrue to those who were dealing with divorces, job rejections or even a difficult commute to work.

In 2004 he published “Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval.” The book is aimed at a general audience and offers a primer on writing and healing and numerous exercises that anyone who is capable of putting pen to paper can undertake. People across the country are giving it a try.

        Your Wellness Journal

Your wellness journal is your space to record your own healing journey. The journal offers you to witness the changes and the process you go through while you are committed to work on your healing. Our minds are designed to try to understand things that happen to us. When a traumatic event occurs or we undergo a major life transition, our minds have to work overtime to try to process the experience. Thoughts about the event may keep us awake at night, distract us at work and even make us less connected with other people.

Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives. Our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, illness, our financial situation, loosing a job, divorce, issues of life and death affect of who we are. Writing helps us focus and organize and release the experience. The process goes beyond just keeping a diary or record of daily events; it’s about exploring your feelings and thoughts about what is going on in your life.


The journal is a reflection of what you are thinking about yourself and your relationship with life. It will give you many important and useful insights. Writing allows you to have a safe place to explore your own emotions and feelings, and it has an incredible way of helping you connect with your inner self. I think that if you learn to write, and you learn to trust your writing, you will be well along the path to recovery.

Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or sentence structure. The only rule is that once you begin writing, you continue until the time is up.


Who is this life story for? Who is the audience?

Writers should let the writing lead them, rather than the other way around. Writing takes people into worlds that they may not consciously have thought about.

I always encourage patients that the life story is for the writer only. And of course often the person has two audiences, themselves, but also their children or relatives. And sometimes there’s real conflict because you want to come across as looking really good and noble and well read. But that gets in the way of being honest with yourself, which was certainly my experience.

My recommendation is: Ignore the audience, write for yourself. When you’ve finished, you can go back and edit and erase the parts that you don’t want other people to read. But the first step is to write the memoir for yourself, and worry about the details later. Just start writing. Instead of writing your life story from birth until today, sit down and devote a few minutes a day to writing what ever is on your mind, perhaps limbering up by writing something that happened as recently as yesterday. Practice being playful with writing.


The ability to put together a story is innate, Pennebaker believes: virtually everyone has the ability to do so. He and his colleagues have done work with maximum-security prisoners, some of whom, he says, can barely spell or string sentences together, “but when you have them write, even though the writing itself isn’t polished, they tell compelling and powerful stories.

So if you sit down and just describe an experience that happened to you without thinking about an audience, you will be impressed how a story emerges. Your stories, if written honestly and with emotion, have the potential to clarify your thoughts about the past, improve your long-term health, and perhaps even change the course of your life.


Whether opting for a special hard cover journal or an inexpensive spiral notebook, seasoned writers utilize the benefits of documenting thoughts, feelings, solutions, and events - while fresh in the mind and creative juices are flowing at their very best. 

You may want to have a special, secret place for your journal, so no one else can read it. You can keep it in a locked box, or tuck it away. You can also ask the people around you not to read your journal, as it is private and only concerns you. As you journal about specific events or people you can also use code words or symbols for those experiences. It is important that you feel safe as you write and express in your journal. Think about how you can create that safe space for yourself in your own environment.


Set Aside Time is One of the most difficult aspects of journaling.It is not the journaling itself, but finding time to write. It’s important to block off about twenty minutes each day to write. Many people prefer to write in the morning as a way to start their day, or before bed, as a way to reflect upon and process the day’s events. However, if your lunch break or some other time is the only window you have, take the time. Find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. Promise yourself that you will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for at least 3 or 4 consecutive days. Once you begin writing, write continuously.

Don’t worry about spelling or grammar.

If you run out of things to write about, just repeat what you have already written. If you are unable to write, you can also talk into a tape recorder. You can write about the same thing on all 3-4 days of writing or you can write about something different each day. It is entirely up to you.


What to Write About

A journal for you, to record the events of a lifetime. To help you remember the special moments you never want to forget - the people you've loved; the friends you've made; the places you've visited; the places that have become home. Record your achievements ... make a note of favourite films/books/music/people ... write down your ambitions ... make a Things To Do Before I Die list. Include a map of the world, and one of your body, to be filled in as you choose. Every day, week, month, year, you can write about what's important in your life and add photos and memorabilia. Do not regret having never started a diary, start one now!  A journal is not just for recording your daily happenings; fill the lined pages with inspirational messages to yourself, of goals and aspirations, be it for current use or simply for future reference! Write about the story of your precious  life and Treasure it.  

Just Begin Writing. Don’t think about what to say; just begin writing, and the words should come. If you really need some help getting started, here are some topics to begin the process:

  • Your dreams

  • Your feelings

  • The good parts of your life, the hard parts of your life.

  • The lessons you have learned or learning

  • The gifts of your life.

  • Your achievements, small and big ones.

  • What do you like about yourself.

  • Your limiting believes and how you can  transform then.

  • Your difficult habits and how you can change them.

  • Your personal blocks and how you overcame (or overcome) them.

  • Your deepest fear.

  • Your possible purpose in life.

  • Your childhood memories and surrounding feelings

  • Where you’d like to be in two years

  • The best and worst days of your life.

  • If you could have three wishes…

  • What was important to you five years ago, and what’s important to you now.

  • What are you grateful for?


Try to write each day.

Writing for at least 20 minutes is ideal, but if you only have 5 minutes, write for 5. If you skip a day or 3, just keep writing when you can.

Don’t worry about neatness or even grammar. Just getting your thoughts and feelings on paper is more important than perfection.

Try not to self-censor; let go of ‘should’s, and just write what comes.

The memoir is more than historical. Memory is a vehicle to explore a question you need to find, and then discover the answer to that question. The search must be as fascinating to you as it is to the reader.


Write not to record but to DISCOVER

  • Believe in the value of what you have to say. Everyone has a different journey. Everyone's journey is important.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Start anywhere. Memory is not chronological.
  • Pay attention to your dreams.
  • Write in a diary or journal. Go back and read your journals. Don't transcribe them, but digest them. Use them to glean the small physical details you may have forgotten.  

Is it “normal” – or “healthy” – to cry when writing about traumatic life experiences?

Across most of their studies, Pennebaker and his colleagues have found that some participants cry or tear up while writing. Many report dreaming or continually thinking about their topics over the four days of the study. But the positive long-term benefits outweighed the negatives of these initial reactions.


Many people report that after writing, they sometimes feel somewhat sad or depressed. Like seeing a sad movie, this typically goes away in a couple of hours. If you find that you are getting extremely upset about a writing topic, simply stop writing or change topics.

What to do with your Writing Samples

The writing is for you and for you only. Their purpose is for you to be completely honest with yourself. When writing, secretly plan what you would like to do with your writing when you are finished. Whether you throw it away or save, it is really up to you. Some people keep their samples and edit them. That is, they gradually change their writing from day to day. Others simply keep them and return to them over and over again to see how they have changed.Here are some other options: Burn them. Erase them. Shred them. Flush them. Tear them into little pieces and toss them into the ocean or let the wind take them away.

Writing and Physical Health

Expressive writing has also shown to have some robust effects in physical health. Researchers have found some health benefits regarding:

  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved lung function
  • Improved liver function
  • Fewer days in hospital

Specifically, when compared to controls, expressive writing has shown to have some medical benefits for lung-functioning in those who have asthma, disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis, pain and physical health in cancer, immune response in HIV infection, hospitalizations for cystic fibrosis, pain intensity in women with chronic pelvic pain, sleep-onset latency in poor sleepers, and post-operative recovery.


Obviously, if you have a serious medical condition, you should never stop seeing a doctor or getting professional treatment. However, it’s nice to know that writing can possibly play a positive role in increasing our physical health. And, for those without serious medical conditions, writing is still a great tool for alleviating stresses in the body and improving your immune system as a whole.


Try writing a dialogue with your illness or with a specific part of your body. You can do this in form of a letter, if this appeals to you. Like this: " Dear cancer, this is how I feel about you... " Tell it everything. But then let it write back to you. To do this sit quietly and let the answer come to you. You might be surprised to hear what your illness has to say. Go back and forth with this kind of writing or correspondence with your illness. You will see that your cancer also needs to be claimed and even loved.


Write about anything what is in your mind, your health, your inner world. Write about your treatment you are receiving and about your health creation team and doctors and nurses. How do you fell about your prognosis? How has this affected your life goals or priorities? How has it affected the people in your life? Write about your parents,your partner, husband , your children your work,  your home life. You may want to focus on a particular issue, a feeling a relationship, a conflict, or a part of you that needs healing. Write about how you feel, what you want to do about it or how you would like to feel without it.


Write your anger, hurt or resentments, write your forgiveness love and concerns. And as you write, just let your words come freely. When you translate an experience into language you essentially make the experience graspable. Writing down feelings, thought, ideas, insights and experiences is a way to connect with your healing, release meaning and deepen your understanding. Be as candid and open as you can. This is just for you, not for anyone else. Writing opens the door to communication, with yourself. When you communicate in this way with yourself, you discover a new friend, a playmate with whom you can explore your inner world. It is a way of letting the voice within you speak.


Journaling is an excellent method of clearing mind – clutter and managing thought patterns. The “untamed “ mind tends to wander about aimlessly. At any given moment, we have a multitude of thoughts and interval conversations. Our random thoughts can turn into worries, which turn into stress, which can then manifest as conditions like depressions or illness. The act of addressing our thoughts and acknowledging our inner voice allows us to clearly express our feelings, motivations and desires.


As we go about our daily lives we accumulate brain clutter. Stress and anxiety grow as more and more clutter is kept in the brain & on our minds. A Brain Purge is needed to clear the clutter and organize your thoughts, much like de -fragging your PC. Quite frankly, our minds are cluttered beyond recognition. It comes as no surprise that so many people snap at the drop of a coin. This constant time demand coupled with the immediacy of communication these days, makes us feel like shutting down means not caring, not participating, and well, getting left out.


Getting words down on paper can help clear your head of thoughts and ideas that are creating a mental swirl of confusion. Something as simple as keeping a grocery list can help free up the activity center of your brain, making room for clearer thinking.
"You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends or relatives; to your past, your present or your future; or to who you have been, who you would like to be or who you are now. You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or about different topics each day.


Researchers theorize that this kind of expressive writing can be beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, writing about traumatic events can help confront previously inhibited emotions, which can be a burden on our bodies and minds when we try to suppress or ignore these feelings. Secondly, expressive writing can lead to a more coherent narrative about past events, which can help to “reorganize and structure traumatic memories, resulting in a more adaptive internal schema.”

I’ve always been impressed how people are ultimately their own best therapists.

While in traditional therapy individuals can take weeks to get to the point of saying things that are profoundly personal, writing bypasses that whole early stage of therapy and puts the writer directly in touch with his or her feelings. Writing is a tool to help them discover what those issues are that are bothering them. And over the long term expressive writing can even lead to “life course correction.” Understanding the past helps us to see our future path more clearly.


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