Do you ever journal your thoughts or feelings? What benefits are there to journaling? Many people don't know that research suggests both physical and psychological benefits from journaling. Writing can be a therapeutic and cathartic way of releasing emotions and confronting emotional pain. Scientific evidence supports that journaling provides other benefits such as clarifying your thoughts and feelings and increasing problem-solving skills. Additionally when we write regularly we can reflect and discern our internal needs and increase the chances of resolving conflicts more effectively. Journaling can actually evoke mindfulness by actively engaging our thoughts. Getting into the habit of writing routinely can strengthen our self-discipline and help us focus on our ambitions and goal setting. Lastly, journaling can help us in processing emotions, increasing self-awareness, and healing our traumas. Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal, explains "When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable."
Some people have an easier time writing down their thoughts and feelings than verbalizing their conflicts. In therapy, writing a letter to a loved one as a way of saying goodbye, letting go, and/or confronting emotional pain can be helpful even if the letter is not shared. Typically, I recommend that the person read the letter in the therapy session. We process the letter and discern the impact of those feelings in other aspects of their lives before moving to a role playing process. The goal with the role play is to help with closure by increasing their understanding, awareness, and insight into the intended recipient of the letter along with providing a healthy and affirming response. Sometimes the recipient of the letter has already died so it cannot be shared directly, but it can be shared with another close family member or at the grave site. The objective behind the letter is not to blame or attack the person, but rather acknowledge their words and actions that caused pain and work towards forgiveness. The person has the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings in an uninterrupted and nonjudgemental forum in an effort to let go of their emotional pain.
In some cases the letter is to a parent, ex-spouse, sibling, friend, and/or colleague. Sometimes the letter is written to oneself because the shame, guilt and anger is so overwhelming from bad choices and decisions that beating up on ourselves has become a daily habit. Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Writing about the pain, acknowledging the impact, and choosing to let it go and forgive ourselves can be incredibly liberating. Writing can give us freedom from the thoughts and feelings that take up space in our head. Sometimes when we write, the realization hits us that we're hanging onto senseless worry, control we don't have, and pain that is self-inflicted. Decide today to write as a way to unclutter your mind and achieve greater peace.