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+ Journaling for Mind, Body benefits – Guest article by Gemma Philips

How Journaling reduces stress
Recent scientific studies have backed what has long been known in Eastern philosophy since ancient times: holistic practices such as yoga and mindfulness meditation lower stress hormone levels, lift our mood, and boost our academic and work performance. If you are already well versed with the many benefits that meditation can bring to your life, you might consider adopting a complementary activity, which will only enhance the relaxing effects of meditation. It’s called journaling, and it is currently a therapy that is encouraged in a variety of settings – including centers for rehabilitation for drug abuse, for eating disorder recovery and for the treatment of stress-related conditions such as depression and anxiety. Journaling is also used for patients which chronic health conditions, including cancer, asthma, chronic pain, insomnia, etc.

How does Journaling differ from diary writing?
Far from merely recording the events of the day, as is the case with diary writing, journaling goes a step beyond, in that it involves writing down our thoughts and feelings which are our reactions to the day’s events. In this way, we can get to know ourselves better – find out what triggers stress or anxiety, note down the way we tend to react to conflict or difficult issues, and jot down alternative, more positive reactions the next time we encounter a similar situation.

What benefits does journaling bring?
Some of the many benefits of journaling include:

  • Helping us deal with stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Helping us deal with challenging events and circumstances
  • Helping us ‘metabolize’ our experience – when we do not journal, we can simply block any unpleasant thoughts or emotions, which are transformed into a muddled memory we obtain little value from. Journaling helps us process the day’s events, so that we are not plagued by distressing thoughts and feelings. In this way, journaling very much resembles mindfulness.
  • Helping us track our progress – we can use our journal to create strategies to deal with difficult situations, and take note of how we are progressing in our goals.
  • Identifying triggers – journaling regularly enables us to identify the situations or people that tend to make us anxious or upset. We can analyse how they manage to have this effect on us, and either make a conscious decision to process their words and actions in a different manner, or take more drastic measures if necessary (such as limiting the amount of time we spend in these types of situations, especially if they are toxic or bring no good to our lives).

What Types of Journal are there?
Ultimately, each of us defines and creates our own type of journal. Some people find success from keeping a gratitude journal – in which they regularly list down the things, people and events they are thankful for. Others (such as those in recovery from substance abuse, for instance) keep a recovery journal, to help track their progress, triggers and setbacks. Still others keep a journal to note their progress towards a defined goal. Another popular journal is the evening reflection journal, which enables the writer to reflect on their reactions to a specific event.

How to Journal?
Journaling ultimately only works if we are truly committed to it. The aim should be to write daily, or every couple of days, for a set amount of time (between 20 minutes and around half an hour at least). If you are considering starting a journal, find a comfy, quiet spot in your home, where you won’t be bothered by noise. Make this area as personal as you can – fill it with lights, put on relaxing music or decorate it so that just the idea of journaling seems immensely appealing. Every few days, go back over previous entries to reflect on them. During the day, use your phone or keep a small notebook, jotting down any important thoughts or feelings you may otherwise forget. Remember that journaling is a reflective exercise; use your journal to become more self-aware and to make the necessary changes you need for a better quality of life.

Further Reading:
Journaling as an Aid to Recovery, Recovery.org
Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress, Health.Harvard.edu
Yoga, Umm.edu
Journaling for Mental Health, Urmc.Rochester.edu
The Benefits of Journaling, UWhealth.org

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+ “I am blessed by your counsel and friendship”- a client

Anna (name changed) in her seventies attended four of my classes. One day she came to our office in my absence and left an envelope. It had a ‘thank you’ card and some payment. The payment was far beyond what she owed me for the used books I sold her in the last class (1). Her note in the card reads –

“Dear C S
Enclosed is my payment for the books. The extra money is what I wish to give you, for your therapy sessions. While you may not have a counseling degree, it’s no matter. You are a wise, intuitive, compassionate and warm human being. You and I know ‘the degree’ doesn’t always equal quality and common sense. You possess both (2). I am blessed by your counsel and friendship.”

I feel humbled by her appreciation and unexpected payment.

(1) Her son in his forties Joseph (name changed) died under unbelievable circumstances. As shared by Anna:
Joseph separated from his wife and shared the custody of their five year old daughter. He was under stress, having been fired from his job when he reported to the management about discrimination at the work place.  Anna visited him and granddaughter in Minnesota. One day, Joseph was driving with Anna and family in the back seat. For an unknown reason, Joseph showed his middle finger to another driver (5).  The other driver followed them in his truck. When they both stopped at the next red light, the other driver jumped out of his truck with an ax, smashed the rear screen of their car, pulled out Joseph out and badly hurt him. The police arrived promptly and took the other driver away.

After the near death experience, Joseph was devastated. He thought that his having a puny body was the cause for his humiliation. He resolved not to let anyone humiliate him again. He bought a gun and always carried it with him. Anna realized his acute stress and tried her best to convince him to seek therapy. But he did not like to do that.

One day, Joseph and his ex-wife were in a store parking lot, exchanging the custody of their daughter. His ex took custody of their daughter and backing up her car, about to leave. An unknown car driver who was behind her, beeped, to caution her. Joseph was watching the scene from his car, parked a few spaces away. Apparently, he misunderstood that the other driver was harassing his ex-wife and daughter. He jumped out his car with his gun, fatally shot the innocent stranger and himself.

(2) The circumstances which led her to my attend my counselling classes:
Anna came to my seminar for NAMI Rensselaer County members in March 2014 and liked the technique (3). She enrolled for three of my Meditation classes at Venture Inward in Nov 2016, but did not show up after the first class (4). When I called her in Jan 2017 to inquire, she told me about the tragic death of her son. I could hear her crying over the phone. I advised her to seek help from a counselor. On a follow up call, I came to know she was not inclined to seek a counselor. I then invited her to come to my solo classes, as I owed her 2 classes anyway.
(3) NAMI Rensselaer County: National Alliance for Mental Illness
(4) Venture Inward
(5) Middle finger – Wiki page

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Seminar – East Greenbush Library

I offered the 16th seminar at East Greenbush Community Library (1) on January 11, 2017 from 6.30 to 8.30 pm. Attended by 12 adults. A folder containing my key handouts  and sample testimonials was given to each participant (2), (3). It was interesting to hear from a participant that she attended the seminar a few years back and the technique helped her sleep. She came this time along with her husband. They both met me at the end and her husband commented “she falls asleep so quickly”. She said she brought him along because he does not sleep well.  

Summary of the Feedback

I will practice this technique for my (concern) 

  • Anxiety and Insomnia
  • Insomnia and to turn my brain “Off” when I want to sleep.
  • Sleep
  • Anxiety and Panic attacks
  • Stress
  • Relax when feeling stressed
  • Increased peace

My ‘Take home’ points

  • 3 Steps/ ways to fall asleep
  • Breathing at bedtime and awakening
  • Practice breathing, Try morning routine
  • Waking up with stretches and breathing, Chanting, Picking something that speaks to my heart
  • I like the ideas of breathing techniques before sleep and after waking
  • Stretching techniques before starting the day
  • Counting while breathing

Evaluation of the seminar 

  • Very satisfied – 9 (only 9 people returned the forms. Two people left early as they had an appointment)

Comments

  • I took this class a few years ago & the breathing techniques definitely help with my sleep.
  • Very useful ideas to use going forward.
  • Too short! I loved every minute. I want to learn more.
  • Counting, Feeling, folding – I will use tonight to relax and sleep.
  • Very passionate about topic, obviously a major part of his life
  • Thank you for sharing from your learning.
  • Great!
  • Thank you!
  • Counting, feeling and folding modes – I will use tonight to relax and sleep. Thank you so much!

I wish to 

  • Receive ‘Annual update’ on this technique – 4
  • Interested in ‘follow up classes’ on today’s techniques – 2

(1) East Greenbush Community Library
(2) Documents for download – All handouts
(3) Sample testimonials – 16

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Related pages
Public Seminars

Seminar for the father of a client

A young software Engineer has been coming to the classes for the last 18 months. He brought his father 60+ visiting from India, to be introduced to the techniques as they helped him come out of his severe stress (1). His feedback after the introductory session.

I want to use this technique for my …

Spondylitis pain, Insomnia, Anxiety, Stress from thinking about garbage thoughts, Mental peace lacking inpite of strong will power

My Take home points …

I can cope with mental stress using the breathing techniques by diverting the mind

(1) Focusing on breathing

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Yoga and Meditation Class – June 11

The second monthly class at Venture Inward was done on June 11, 2016 from 6.30 to 8.00 pm (1). Two women attended. Summary of their feedback is shown below .

Summary of the Feedback

I will practice this technique for my (concern) 

  • Relaxation, Sleeping
  • Stress, Sleep, Relaxation

My ‘Take home’ points

  • Remembering to stretch am and pm & Various postures. Focus on breathing 1 breath

Seminar evaluation

  • Very satisfied – 2

Comments

  • Has helped me in many ways: De-stress/ Calm down with others, Sleeping, Focus and free my mind to give and receive Reiki. (This is her second class)
  • More informative; More effective than expected.

I recommend this seminar to (specify the group with contact details if possible)

  • My daughters, friends.

(1) ‘Venture Inward’ Call #477-6566 to register.

Related pages: Public Seminars

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Seminar – Castleton Library

The third seminar at this library was on May 11, 2016, organized by Melissa Tacke, the Director of the Library (1). Attended by 2 adults. Each of them was given a select set of my handouts in a folder (2). Their feedback is summarized below.

Scanned images of the Feedback forms

I will use this technique for my

  • Stress
  • Thought change, Sleep, Quit smoking

My take home from this seminar

  • Breathing in any situation: driving, waiting in lines, always concentration on breathing
  • Plant seed, Clear the mind

Seminar evaluation

  • Very satisfied – 2

Comments

  • May follow up with class.
  • Thank you for the lesson.

I recommend this seminar to another group

No response

(1) Castleton Public Library
(2) Documents

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+ Relief from anxiety, insomnia, & more

Pam attended 4 of my classes (her name changed). She knew about this technique and my classes from the handout I keep at the East Greenbush Library (1). Her acute stress was due to her husband’s late stage colon cancer, now being treated by chemotherapy.

Pam’s condition before the classes

I chose to do classes as I had become quite anxious. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I felt pretty much out of control, constantly worrying & getting along on not much sleep. I needed help.

The techniques she practiced (2)

The methods I’ve been using are: counting mode, folding mode, tip mode, segment mode, 911 mode and feeling modes.

I used the 911 and the folding quite a few times when things were crazy.

At bedtime, I do normal breathing in and breathing out with counting mode and if still not sleepy enough switch to feeling mode.

In morning I use normal breathing, then segment mode and folding modes.

When driving I tend to use feeling mode a lot and if riding I’ll use counting and tip mode.

How did the practices help Pam?

When I was extremely anxious, I tended to make myself ill. I would also get a headache. I did the 911 and folding method. I slowly calmed down. My stomach settled and my headache eased.

CS I’m glad to give you this info.

(1) The Breathing Solution for sleep problems
(2) Focusing on breathing – different modes

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