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The health benefits of journaling

DR. JOHN INZERILLO

For today’s Health Beat article, I will expound on the health benefits of journaling. You can start with one sentence a day and move forward at your own pace. As you progress you will find that your stress level will decrease, immune function will improve, your memory will sharpen, your mood will boost and your emotions will be more balanced. Research shows that journaling will increase your self-confidence, make you more adaptive and increase your creativity.

As examples, three of my previous writings over the past few years will follow.

Seeking Joy

Life is fleeting, we all know that. Does it matter in the long run? Not to those who have gone, but yes, it does to those who are left behind. One moment follows the next, without waiting, without stopping to say, “Look here, this is something special.” We are the guardians of our thoughts. We may listen to others, but we have the final say as to how we perceive our experiences. We decide the footprint our thoughts and actions leave behind. Recall the Bible verse, Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” So, why don’t we follow these simple commands? Does it seem too simple? Maybe it is a lack of trust.

We all have the means to look for joy; those thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and moods that bring us happiness, despite our outward circumstances. Emotions and feelings transform constantly, like the wind, they blow in different directions, at different velocities and strengths. At times we want to lasso them in and control them, only to find it would be easier to tether a moving cloud. Not going to happen, we will never hold down vapor, but with practice, we can manage our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Does it seem silly to just sit in the yard and watch birds at a feeder, always on the alert, grabbing what they can and quickly flying away? Watching the birds moves us into the present. We forget about the next assignment, the next insurance payment, what’s for dinner. The fact is that we are just too busy, or so we think. Anyone can take two minutes from their schedule for down time. Try it. Let your mind open, allow it to escape the constant merry-go-round thinking it craves. What if you were a bird? Would you fly to a new place daily? Would you go as high as your wings could take you? How would you fit into your bird community? Would you lead, would you follow, would you even care, or would you just be satisfied with who you are?

Joy comes in many forms. What form does it take for you? How can you, by changing your perspective, experience more of it? Ask that the door to joyful living open, seek joy with all your heart, make peace with yourself and spread the joy that comes your way.

Stillness

Life in general is one distraction after another with roadblocks impeding our way at every step. The unforeseen happens, and it should be expected. To master our way in life we realize that we must go with the flow and prioritize. In the clamor of the day it is easy to lose sight of the ever-present joy that is always quietly beckoning for our attention.

No matter how busy we may be. No matter how pulling the needs of others are, it is possible to remain aware of the stillness that always exists within each of us. Do not suppress its quiet calling, do not tell it, “Later,” but stay aware of its presence, and find joy in all that you do. Attending to those things that are good for us will increase our capacity for giving and open the way to acts of kindness. Such actions, such awareness, will always make life worth living.

Give What You’ve Got

We all have something to give to others that we often overlook, probably because the information is right under our noses, well above and behind our noses, in our heads. If you haven’t guessed what I am referring to, it is our experience. Each of us have unique events that have shaped who we are, yet as we all know, the experiences are also universal as the feelings and emotions generated are shared by all.

What good is it to know and be aware of this knowledge? The simple fact is that the information is always available to you, and easy to share, with the goal of making another’s life less complicated and minimizing their suffering. By sharing our experiences, we take the initiative in opening doors for others to go where they may have never considered. We help them avoid the traps and unplanned detours that the inexperienced will predictably collide head on with.

In sharing experiences, especially the tough ones, we also find renewed value in having had gone through the tough times. We walked through the gates of tribulation. We learned from the experience and now others can also benefit.

We need to be ready and willing to give of our experience just as those on the receiving end need to be ready and willing to listen. This is where experience pays off, when we can quickly and decidedly share it with others. Give what you’ve got today and daily.

Hope this helps to kick start a healthy habit of journaling for you.

John Inzerillo, MD, is a hematologist/oncologist with the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center of Vidant Beaufort Hospital.