“Remember – writing saves lives; and lives are saved by writing! Enjoy becoming a better you through your journal journey.”- Jackee Holder
Jennifer sat thinking back to her very stormy childhood. She remembered night after night hearing her parents fight in their bedroom. Often, the next morning, when she went out to go to school either or mother or father was asleep on the sofa in the front room. She and her older brother had to get themselves off to school.
She thought about her 12th birthday. When she got home from school both her mother and father were in the living room laughing and, seemingly, having a good time. The strong odor of alcohol did not permeate the room.
“What’s up?” Jennifer asked.
“It’s your birthday,” her dad said. “When your brother gets home we’re going to have a little party.”
Jennifer was skeptical. Every time there was a party things seemed to go from bad to worse.
Her mother put her arm around her, “It’s going to be okay, really. We’ve worked things out. It’s going to be different. You can erase the worried look off your face. It’s your birthday. It’s time to be happy.”
Jennifer tried to wipe the concern off her face as her brother walked in the house with arms open wide to give her a hug, “Happy Birthday, Sis.”
All four went into the kitchen to help finish dinner. Jennifer stepped back watching Mom and Dad talking and playing like they used to as they worked together to put dinner on the table.
Mom seemed to be right, things were better than they had been for a long time. Jennifer was lost in thought until they all started singing Happy Birthday as Dad brought in a birthday cake, candles glowing, sitting it down in front of her.
“Make a wish,” they all said at once then bursting out laughing.
Mom handed her a present. She ripped off the wrapping paper to find a diary with a luminous cover and a lock. It was the kind that was popular back then.
Jennifer thought about that first diary, she still had it put away. She remembered being so cautious about what she wrote on the pages. At that time she preferred to keep her secrets securely lock in her head.
As she moved into her teenage years the secrets became too heavy to keep locked in her head. She began the journey of unloading them to the diary where she could keep them under lock and key.
Thinking back it seemed that the more she wrote the less the chaos bothered her. It’s like she offloaded her thoughts, the good, the bad, and the ugly, to her diary where they could be stored without knocking around in her head causing emotional and mental pain.
As a teenager, she was unaware of any research into the therapeutic benefits of journaling. All she knew was whether it was a stream of consciousness, emotional venting, a poem or a story, she always felt better when finished.
Professor James Pennebaker states that “expressive writing” is where people write for about 15 to 20 minutes a day, three to four days per week, or as often as necessary, about an upsetting or emotional experience. Studies have shown that people who engage in expressive writing have improved physical and mental health compared to individuals who do not write.
Expressive writing isn’t just a form of journaling. It’s also not just a practice for novelists, screenwriters, or journalists. “It is a writing technique that helps people understand and deal with the emotional upheavals in their lives,” (Pennebaker, Smyth 2016). It is a method of self-coaching or self-help without outlandish claims. The best part is that it has strong scientific evidence to back it up. It has been used to treat a wide variety of physical and mental health problems such as anxiety, depressions and PTSD with great success.
Expressive or journal writing has been proven to contribute to better sleeping patterns, reduced stress, and depression, and helps the individual with self-management.
As Jennifer got older she continued to write. She would take, sometimes, an hour before bed to write.
“Why do you have to write every night? You’re just wasting our together time,” her husband said.
“You don’t like to hear me venting about things that happen at work, do you? You tell me I’m just complaining. Well, when I write I have a safe and private space for me to vent, be emotional and mental if needed. And you don’t have to listen to me,” she said as she got her journal out and prepared to write.
“I also found that it helps to clear away my mental clutter at the end of the day. When negative and emotional feelings are written on the paper, it’s funny, but it’s like I take it out of my mind and store it safely in my book. It clears my mental space,” she said with a little grin like she was lost in her thoughts.
“No, yah, buts, you’re always complaining about how much we’re spending. This is much less expensive than going to a shrink.”
“Well, you’re right there,” he said with the look on his face that said he was actually thinking about it.
“I can do it anywhere. I don’t have to go to some guy’s office…”
“Or pay him $250 per hour,” he interrupted.
Jennifer laughed, “Are you still stuck on money?”
“My journaling has helped me work through all the problems that I encountered when starting my business. You seem to like all the money I bring in?”
“The journaling at night helps me evaluate my day and prepare for the next day. It helps me know what I have to do tomorrow, who I have to call, supplies I have to order. It helps me handle and reduce the stress from dealing with employees, vendors, and customers. It reduces stress so I don’t bring it home. When I have someone I have to communicate with over an issue I write it out first so I know what I need to say. And it’s flexible. I can write it out one way and later if that doesn’t seem right I can go back and rework it to eliminate any possible problems.”
“Is that why all of your employees really love you?” he asked.
Jennifer looked up thinking he was trying to make a joke, “You’re kidding, right?”
“Actually, no, I’m not kidding. You haven’t had anyone quit, except your temporary help and they’re always trying to come back. When I walk in everybody is happy. It’s like they enjoy being there, at work. Is journaling actually your secret to happy employees and a successful business?”
“I think that’s a large part of it because I don’t just go off on people and I work through problems on paper first. Sometimes, I will bring one or more of the employees into my office and I write as we discuss different problems. Everything is in my journal. I can go back later and work on it. Nothing gets lost or misplaced. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:23 to renew our minds. I think journaling is a very good way of doing that.”
“I see how it works for personal and work issues, but I’m not sure I understand how it works for spiritual issues.”
“Remember the Bible study material we got a few months back?” Jennifer asked.
“Well, I read the material, pray about it, and listen to what God is telling me about it. I listen to God’s voice and write it down. If I have any questions I write them down and ask God about it. It’s called a Two-Way Journal. I heard about it online and started doing it. It works.”
He sat quietly for what seemed like an eternity before saying, “Are women the only ones who journal?”
“Heavens, no. In fact, I came across Professor James Pennebaker who has written several books about it and recommends it to everyone.”
He got up and walked into the other room. In a few minutes he was back with his laptop, “Okay, I’m going to give it a try.