I’m a writer. I write for a living. I also write for my sanity. Putting pen to paper has a way of not only transferring thoughts but also shifting worry from my brain to the pad. And somehow, by the time I get finished jotting down whatever I’m feeling, my mood is lifted.
Here’s an article I wrote for Georgetown View Magazine about the relief I experienced by journaling. I hope it encourages you to sharpen your pencil, find a comfy spot while baby naps (or take pen and paper to the bathroom with you!) and get to writing! Don’t worry about grammar or sentence structure or anything. Just write.
Moms: Reduce Stress by Journaling
Explore the physical and mental benefits of journaling
By Alicea Jones
When my daughter was born, I made a journal out of an old three-ring binder and filled it with colored paper. What I discovered from those quiet moments journal writing was that getting my thoughts on paper helped bring clarity and reduced the stress caused by all the “what-if” concerns I had as a new mother.
Whether you’re a new mom or veteran, journaling is a healthy and low cost option moms can undertake to bring perspective to their thoughts and concerns. Transferring your thoughts to paper allows you to look at your feelings from a distance—like moving a blurry page out to arm’s length so that the words become clearer—more concrete.
Studies show that the act of journaling calms the mind and body and gives you an opportunity for reflection. “There’s been a tremendous amount of research showing that if people occasionally set aside 15 – 20 minutes a day for a total of 3 to 4 days, and write about the deepest thoughts and feelings about the issues going on in their lives, that it has beneficial effects on people’s mental and physical health. This has been found to be particularly beneficial for people undergoing transitions in their lives. There are very few things that would qualify more than having your first child,” said Dr. James W. Pennebaker, professor at the University of Texas and author of Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval.
Journal writing can be cathartic because you’re not writing for anyone but yourself. In my writing classes, I teach students to think of journaling as an unfiltered brain dump. In other words, journaling is about letting the thoughts flow without judgment, self-criticism or editing. Journaling is a private writing activity (unless you decide to blog) between you, your pen and your paper.
In the Mood for Journaling
Set aside a few uninterrupted minutes and find a comfortable spot. When the weather is mild, my favorite spot to journal is on the bench under a tree in my backyard. For you, it might be at the kitchen table, propped up on pillows on your couch or while sipping a latte at your local coffee shop.
Whether you use pen and paper or the blogging option, just get started. It doesn’t matter whether you use an 89 cent composition book or an etched Italian leather journal. (Hint: let your friends know you’re in the market for a nice journal. You just might receive one on your next birthday.) A three-ringed binder left over from your child’s school project will do. Or try punching three holes down the side of that leftover scrapbooking paper in your craft cabinet and run ribbon or string through the holes. Use your favorite pen or pencil or splurge on a new one just for journaling.
If you’re wondering how you’ll find the time to journal remember that you don’t have to journal every day. I journal when I find the time. Having a set time to journal can be helpful. I prefer to journal in the morning before the house awakes. Your best time might be at night once the kids are put to bed or during a lunch break at work.
Whether you journal every day or as the mood hits you, your journal can be a mother’s friend. Journaling can help you feel more hopeful while reducing the stress of keeping thoughts trapped in your head.
Stay tuned for next week’s post (Part II) about Sammie’s struggle with mom blues and how writing helped her sing a new tune!
“People who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than before writing. Similarly, reports of depressive symptoms, rumination, and general anxiety tend to drop in the weeks and months after writing about emotional upheavals.” Dr. James W. Pennebaker from “Writing to Heal”