~ By Connie
Recently, I read a story from the book, Enjoy the Moment: Teens Write about Dealing with Stress published by Youth Communication. In the one particular story I read, entitled “My Journal Saved My Life,” a teenage girl writes about her experiences in the ninth grade as she was going through some deep emotional trauma in her life during that time. Her mom’s recent job loss and the fact that her father had been physically abusive to her mother were very troubling, but then her father decided to leave them and refused to give them any financial support. She was worried now about her next meal and where she would sleep. Being new at her high school, she didn’t feel like she was able to share her feelings with her new friends. She didn’t know who she could trust. This left her feeling isolated, frustrated, and suicidal.
As the story continues, this girl’s trauma escalates, so her only outlet is to start writing in her journal. She felt that the only way to let go of her emotions was to put them on paper because she felt that she couldn’t share them with anyone else. In her journal, she began to detail what was going on and how it made her feel, and for the first time she experienced some relief. She still had worries, but had a way to cope with her feelings of despair and as a result, she no longer felt sad or suicidal. She writes, “Writing allows my emotions to pour out of my emotional storage bag, my heart. Once it’s opened and my feelings are released, I feel at ease.” Eventually things got better at home for her and the experience she received from keeping a journal had truly changed her life.
This was such a moving story and further emphasized to me how the concept of keeping a journal of one’s thoughts and emotions can be therapeutic and have life-changing results. This is not something new; many therapists have their clients write in a journal and use this in the treatment process.
In an article from Psychological Science, “Writing about Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process,” James W. Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin, writes that, “Confronting deeply personal issues (through either writing or talking) has been found to promote physical health, subjective well-being, and selected adaptive behaviors.” He suggests that “the writing paradigm is exceptionally powerful,” and that “the overwhelming majority report that the writing experience was valuable and meaningful in their lives.”
I have experienced this in my own life, and I know many people who do this on a consistent, daily basis. Whether or not a person is going through life changes, traumatic events in their life, or just daily stress, writing seems to be a way to “get out your feelings.” One’s deepest thoughts and emotions can be birthed on paper and have future life changing results.
Another aspect of writing in a journal is the opportunity to go back and read what one has written down to gain a better understanding of oneself and the situations they are facing. This is a valuable learning tool to enhance our lives to grow to be a better person, capable of handling whatever life throws our way. I think it helps us to continually grow and to keep from becoming stagnant in our lives.
I believe that these daily exercises of writing and keeping a journal can be a life-saving or even just a life-learning practice that can make a difference in our future.