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  1. Journaling as a Healing Art Virginia Maripolsky RNC, BSN, MSW Bangkok Hospital Medical Center

  2. Presentation Objectives: • Using writing as a tool for healing • Present four basic writing exercises • Advise on the legal status of your journal especially as it pertains to a health care professional • List warming up techniques useful with clients • Refer to internet resources

  3. Journal, noun. 1. A daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations. 2. A newspaper, especially a daily one. 3. A periodical or magazine. 4. A log or logbook.

  4. Writing as a Healing ArtPoets and Writers Magazine, May 2001“Literary Life Writing”“The Rape Poems”“How Telling our Stories Transforms our Lives”“Poetry in Prisons”“Recovering Your Silenced Life”

  5. Long before there were therapists there were poets. • “Once crystallized into words, all-engulfing feelings become manageable, and once challenged into explicitness, the burden of the incommunicable becomes less heavy. The very act of creating is a self-sustaining experience, and in the poetic moment the self becomes both the ministering ‘therapist’ and the comforted ‘patient’.” • Molly Harrower, PhD, The Therapy of Poetry

  6. Summary of study outcomes • Many students wept while writing • Some indicated these were tragedies they had never disclosed • Many were troubled and dismayed by their writing • Four months later…they reported their spirits had improved significantly

  7. Physiological effects of writing • Brain wave activity congruence between the right and left brain • Increased T-lymphocyte activity • Increased ability to fight infection • Lower heart rates • More relaxed physiological state

  8. Journal of the American Medical Association - Joshua Smyth • Symptoms of people with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis • Greater reduction in their symptoms four months later

  9. Silencing our stories • If telling our stories seems to unleash our bodies’ healing potential • Then silence can adversely affect our health

  10. DisclaimerDon’t use writing as a substitute for therapy or for getting medical care.

  11. Rules of Journal Writing • 1. Date your entries as you go • 2. Don’t make any other rules

  12. 1. Timed Exercises • Choose a set time to write • 5 – 7 minutes serves well • Set a timer or watch the clock • Stop writing when the time is up, even in the middle of a sentence

  13. 2. Flow Writing • Pick a tangible object from your surroundings and use it as the opening image in your entry • Let your mind free associate from one thought to the next

  14. 3. Dialogue Writing • Open with a leading question • Take a breath, pause; write down the first response that comes • Work in a rhythm of question/answer

  15. 4. Unsent letters • Although this is an addressed journal entry, you do not need to take the recipient’s feelings into account • Allow the letter to ramble and develop in your usual style

  16. Unsent letter • Often the ritual of actually writing on stationery and sealing into an addressed envelope provides closure • Has been used to write to a loved one who has died

  17. The Legal Status of your Journal • Don’t tell your journal anything you wouldn’t want the District Attorney to hear.

  18. Legal issues • It isn’t protected • You can’t claim your 5th amendment rights • The diary is just another piece of evidence

  19. Legal issues • Emails have been used as evidence • Encrypt personal use of computers or use only a phrase you will know

  20. Warming up • Date & time your work • Sign your work • Ignore your inner critic • Watch out for the censor • Avoid judgments

  21. Techniques to get started: A tool for healing • Draw a picture of a totally healthy you. • Describe it in your own words.

  22. Warming up techniques • How do you take time to experience the pleasure of each of your 5 senses. • Write about each. • Explore your instinct for making things up • Write a travel diary

  23. Warming up techniques • Write about a childhood recollection. • Go with the first thought • Go for the details

  24. Warming up techniques • Start doodling: continue for 2 - 3 minutes • Describe it or how you felt doing it

  25. Warming up techniques • A blessing a day • Review the day and write one thing that you are willing to accept as a gift • End with the words…..thank you • Amen • Namaste

  26. Warming up techniques • Journaling as a garbage can: • Throw away your frustrations, your fears, your doubts, your insecurities, your anger. • Writing about them will lessen their power over you.

  27. Warming up techniques • Journal as a camera • Carry a notebook with you • Collect careful little ‘word photos’ • You will begin to see more than you ever saw before

  28. Write a poem Write a haiku Write to yourself as a child Make a wish list Warming up techniques • Write a prayer • Write a song • Write a country and Western song • Write in fragments

  29. Keep a Dream Journal • Write every dream you remember • Write it when you wake up in the middle of the night • Write when you are tired to catch your brain off guard

  30. Internet Resources • Often, a webring of journals that post at least 20 entries a month. • The Squirrel Lists, a variety of lists of journals of Gen-Xers, left-handers, Canadians, humor-oriented, philosophy-oriented... a place to find a list of people offering specifically what you're looking for. • Diaries and Journals on the Internet • Willa's List of Journals • Open Pages, a webring of journals that is open to any journal that meet a few simple qualifications.

  31. JOURNALING • Acts as a healer • Lessens the power that our emotions have over us • Research has shown that journaling increases our bodies ability to fight infection and • Promotes a more relaxed physiological state