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imagesDear Journal,

July 12, 2013 11:00am

Today I want to start writing a post on journal writing…not just to point out the normal reasons for keeping a journal.  Those reasons always make me feel guilty and like it’s one more thing I “should do” on my already ridiculously large list. No, I want to first share my passion for journals, and second point out some things people might not think about as well as the research based benefits of journaling. I know…I know. I’m not a consistent journal writer, but so what. I have strong feelings about them and I have something I want to say.

July 12, 2013 12:00pm

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I‘m kind of a journal junkie. Yes, it’s one more piece of evidence that I might have a bit of an addictive personality. All you have to do is look at my yarn collection, my hand knitted sock collection, my beanie baby collection (what was I thinking…but their little faces were so cute), my bowl and plate collection…oh yes and I mustn’t forget my fabric and book collection. Wow the list is bigger than I thought, but back to journals. I LOVE journals and I do have a lot of them. I fall in love with the covers, the different papers, the size, what part of the world they come from…and of course, there are the pens. Every journal deserves it own pen. Am I the only one who does this or am I crazy?

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July 12, 2013 1:00pm

Why are journals so important anyway? For me it’s about the book. I know a lot of people like to journal on the computer but there is something about the book for me. My gut tells me it’s something about capturing me, and keeping it preserved between the covers of a book. It’s evidence that I exist and it distinguishes me as an individual. Sometimes I’m afraid I will be forgotten and the only thing worse than that would be forgetting who I am myself. Somehow collecting my thoughts, my dreams, my inspiration and my creativity in a book, makes me feel safe.

July 12, 2013 1:30pm

1. Journals do not have to include words.

2. You can keep multiple journals, each for different purposes.

3. I like leaving a gratitude journal out for snoopy people to read.

4. Journaling to release emotion is helpful, but for more reasons then people know.

5. Research shows expressive journal writing translates into long term sustained emotional and physical health.

6. Writing allows your subconscious and unconscious to surface and be processed.

July 12, 2013 1:45pm

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I’m going to Rubios for lunch with Michael. One of my clients told me they serve wild fish tacos. I’m kind of excited about that. Healthy fast food … can it be true? I think somebody could make a million dollars by starting a seriously healthy fast food chain. I mean everyone is busy. Who has time to prepare healthy food?

July 12, 2013 3:36pm

I was thinking at lunch (by the way Rubios was fantastic!) that it’s not just about the book. Keeping a journal helps me sort my head out. Not only that but it stimulates my creativity. That’s probably because I have no bounds on what I will write, draw, diagram, or chart. People worry about expressing themselves for fear people will see it.  Some journals or journal entries are for keeping, and some are to be destroyed after being written just like Mission Impossible. Also, and this is important…journals with your most private thoughts need to hidden someplace safe…and then don’t forget where you put them.

July 12, 2013 3:50pm

I have a dream (entrepreneur/design) journal.

Dream Book

Dream Book

A gratitude journal

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal

A problem solving journal, a venting journal, a memoir journal and a picture (as in drawing) journal

A dream (as in sleep) journal, a travel journal, a learning journal which I take to lectures. Big sketch pad journals because they give me space to design

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and a journal to record our journey with my husband’s cancer, which I have called…The Cancer Train

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There are others, but I’m getting a little embarrassed.

July 12, 2013 4:00pm

People assume journal writing balances out over the top emotions because it serves as an outlet.  While that is true, there is another lesser-known reason, which I think is awesome. Whenever a person is flooded with emotion, journal writing is an effective way to de-escalate because it engages the reasonable side of the brain. It’s not just the analytical nature of writing, BUT, the actual translation of thought into word, and even word into letters, and then forming the letters on paper or using the keyboard. That is so cool!

July 12, 2013 4:10pm

Image 24Research has shown happiness is 40% intentional activities, 50% genetic, and 10% situational. The 50% genetic part bothers me, but the fact that 40% is intentional leads me to believe we have more power over our happiness and life satisfaction than we thought. In 2009, Toepher & Walker published an article in The Journal of Writing Research, called “Letters of Gratitude: Improving Well-Being through Expressive Writing. They separate happiness and life satisfaction, identifying both as variables of Well-Being. Now that’s the kind of information that flips the light switch on in my mind. It reminds me of the mistaken belief that thoughts and emotions are the same thing. Happiness and Life satisfaction are two different things. Well when you think about it, it does make sense.

July 12, 2013 4:16pm

Happiness is defined as feelings of gladness, satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, a sense of purpose and meaning, and joy.

Life satisfaction comes from a personal assessment of one’s quality of life, which can only be determined by the individual.

In other words, I can be having a lot of fun and be happy, but still not have life satisfaction because I may not be doing the things I think are important.

July 12, 2013 4:45pm

So that means I have to be happy doing the things I see as valuable to really have a sense of Well-Being. An example might be tomorrow I’m going to the Farmer’s Market downtown because I love it and because I believe in eating and supporting local. Connected to happiness and life satisfaction is the concept of gratitude. What does this have to do with journal writing? Well in the research paper called “Letters of Gratitude: Improving Well-Being through Expressive Writing” it was hypothesized that if people wrote letters of gratitude their sense of well being would improve because gratitude is evidence of positive judgments, both stemming from and leading to happiness and life satisfaction.

July 12, 2013 5:00pm

Research subjects were asked to write 3 letters expressing gratitude over a period of 8 weeks. The subjects were told to write meaningful content and to avoid trivial letters such as thank-you notes. They were encouraged to be reflective and compose letters from a positive orientation. Letters were written in 2-week intervals and never sent. The findings showed that significant expressions of gratitude did increase levels of happiness, life satisfaction and overall levels of Well-Being.

Wow! This is why gratitude journals are so great! They not only force us to shift  negative thinking to positive, but they help us favorably evaluate our life when we can identify reasons to be grateful.

Further findings in the study showed that people who could express gratitude for the simple things in life, like a ladybug in their garden had higher levels of happiness.

Bottom line: People who write about gratitude have higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction and overall Well-Being. I think I’m going to have to buy a new journal for letter writing.

 July 12, 2013 5:17

Image 23Another study showed that expressive writing over 3-5 consecutive days, translated into overall improved health over a 4-week period.  Amazing! Journal writing might be as effective as vitamins and supplements.

IMG_1459July 12, 2013 10:25pm

Tonight Richard and I went for a walk in The Gardens at Thanksgiving Point. Talk about happiness and life satisfaction…so many things to be grateful for.

July 13, 2013 7:27am

I wonder what time the Farmer’s Market is open. Maybe I can find a handmade journal for writing letters … or maybe that’s not a good idea. It might not be sturdy enough for intensive letter writing. I’ll at least look. I want to try the letters of gratitude experiment. 3 letters over 8 weeks in 2 week intervals. I’m going to have to look for a happiness/life satisfaction/well being scale to establish a baseline so I can pretest and post test. I’ll test before I write the first letter, and two weeks after the third letter. I hope it works. It would be so awesome if it did. It would give me hope for a happier world. Should I publish my letters on my blog? Technically that would add another variable and skew the results of my experiment, but we’ll see.

July 13,2013 8:39am

Ok, after searching high and low I found The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) which I will use for my measurement tool. I’m going to copy it here so I can look at it easily.

  • 7- Strongly agree
  • 6- Agree
  • 5- Slightly agree
  • 4- Neither agree or disagree
  • 3- Slightly disagree
  • 2- Disagree
  • 1- Strongly disagree

___ In most ways my life is close to my ideal

___ The conditions of my life are excellent

___ I am satisfied with my life

___ So far I have gotten the important things I want in life

___ If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing

Add up your results and see where you are on the following list:

35-31   Extremely satisfied

26-30   Satisfied

21-25   Slightly satisfied

20        Neutral

15-19   Slightly dissatisfied

10-14   Dissatisfied

5-9       Extremely dissatisfied

July 13, 2013 6:15pm

Tagge's Famous Fruit  Willard Bay Blackberries-The sweetest berries I have ever tasted :-)

Tagge’s Famous Fruit Willard Bay Blackberries-The sweetest berries I have ever tasted 🙂

Darling little fiddlers at the farmer's market

Darling little fiddlers at the farmer’s market

With chocolate like this who needs therapy? Seriously this could put me right out of business. Tony Caputo's

With chocolate like this who needs therapy? Seriously this could put me right out of business. Tony Caputo’s

Rich and I went to the Farmer’s Market and then Tony Caputos for lunch. We had a great time looking at and buying produce (I’ve never heard of lemon spinach before). We watched pet owners and their dogs, and listened to two of the sweetest little fiddlers I’ve ever seen. I didn’t find a journal worth buying, so I will use my old stand by for my letters. I will write my first gratitude letter tomorrow. I think my first letter will be a collective letter to all of my heroes. First I’ll take the pre-test and then I’ll set the timer for 20 minutes. I’m not going to care about spelling or grammar-just 20 minutes of written gratitude.

July 14, 2013 7:55am

I just completed the SWLS and scored a 29. I going to go get my phone so I can set the timer for 20 minutes and write my first letter… Ready, Set, GO!

Dear Nelson, Fred, Eleanor, Reon, David, Audrey, Dwight, Gordon, Scott, Julene, Bruce, Jim, Susie, Richard…and to all of the others who have been an inspiration to me,

I want you to know how much you have all meant to me in my life. We go through life doing our own thing, being ourselves, standing up for what we believe in and have no idea how our lives influence others. Well I want you to know you have made a difference in mine. The times I feel like I am in a maze, you serve as sentinels to guide my way. All of you have had courage to live the life you believe was right. I admire your energy to keep moving when it might have been just as easy to relax and live a life of leisure. I love the way some of you took life experiences that were incomprehensible and learned amazing things. Some of you walked through hell so that you could come out the other side and teach the rest of us how to do it. When I learn about you my heart swells and I want to reach out and shake your hand. You all have been pioneers of peace. You have chosen to make the world a better place by standing up for what is right, encouraging others to be the best they can be, and eased the burdens of many.  Dwight I am grateful for the decisions you made that kept us a free nation. I know I’m looking at the end results of your lives and feeling an urge to do something as important as you, but I am struggling through time as I’m sure you did too. Thank you for not stopping the struggle and persevering during trials and hardships. You had them, I’m sure. You all took those struggles and instead of curling up in a ball and stopping you kept going. Many of you have becaome famous for what you have accomplished but I know fame doesn’t translate into self esteem. I want you to know your lives have helped me grow and I try my hardest to emulate you. You give me hope in the future and a strong desire to want to make a contribution as you did. You are my heroes and I want to tell everybody about you. Eleanor, I am grateful that despite your depression you forced yourself to be outwardly focused. I can only imagine how hard it was. 

Times up. I’m just going to sign the letter

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your strong example and the inspiration you are to me.

With sincere gratitude,

Barbara

July 14, 2013 8:28am

Writing the letter was an interesting experience. I didn’t have time to finish and I’m sure I could’ve said things more eloquently, had I had more time to think. There were moments when gratitude swelled in me and other moments when I pushed myself to think. Actually, now I’m left with questions about gratitude. Surprisingly to me I realize I need to explore it more fully, which already is opening doors of unexplored happiness for me.

July 14, 2013 8:57am

The end.

Well that’s it for this week. I hope you have caught a little bit of “journal fever” and are thinking about ways you can incorporate journal writing into your life. Maybe you will take the 3 letter challenge as I have. If you do, let me know how it goes. I’d really be interested to hear about your experiences.

Because this post was written as a giant series of journal entries it is un-edited.

Take care and watch for next weeks installment of “Self Discovery the Michelangelo Way.” Many people read it last week but didn’t vote. Give it a try-It’s fun and can in no way be connected back to you.

Until then, may you find your cup half full 🙂

Barbara (The Blog Whisperer)

P.S The links below are some great articles on journal writing that I found fascinating. Take a look at them.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/09/practicing-gratitude-can-increase.php

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/write-yourself-well/201208/expressive-writing

http://books.google.com/books?id=CPkoxnWwzaUC&pg=PT44&lpg=PT44&dq=expressive+writing+about+gratitude&source=bl&ots=o6I7DJv2og&sig=QgfopmNU1sJc6WKTac-ZMbc1868&hl=en&sa=X&ei=bijgUaqdNe_oiwLOiYCICQ&ved=0CEsQ6AEwBQ