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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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Yoga and Meditation – Dec 12 Class

The seventh monthly class at Venture Inward was done on Dec 12, 2016 from 6.30 to 8.00 pm (1). Six new people attended. Summary of feedback  is shown below.

Scanned images of the feedback forms

I came to know about this seminar from 

Venture Inward newsletter/Flier – 3
A flier at Upstate Acupuncture on 9 & 20 – 2
From CS

I will practice this technique for my (concern)

Sleep problem
Personal use
Chronic pain
Stress reduction and quicker falling asleep
stress during work

My ‘Take home’ points

911 technique
Relax!

Seminar evaluation

Very satisfied – 3
Satisfied – 2
Not satisfied – 1 (2)

Comments

This was a refresher since doing the class 3 years ago.
Expect to use daily.
Never got to gentle Yoga part. (2)

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

Receive Annual Updates?

Yes – 4

Enroll  for ‘Follow up classes’ on this technique?

Yes – 4

Join a ‘Support group for Meditation’?       

Yes – 4

(1) ‘Venture Inward’ Call #477-6566 to register.
(2) I made an offer of a free solo class of one hour to all the participants at my office as I could not do the Yoga part for several reasons.

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Yoga and Meditation – Nov 14 Class

The sixth monthly class at Venture Inward was done on Nov 14, 2016 from 6.30 to 8.00 pm (1). Three women and two men attended. Four were new comers and 1 continuer. Summary of feedback  is shown below.

Scanned images of the feedback forms

Newcomers

I came to know about this seminar from 

A friend
A flier in the doctor’s office
Venture Inward newsletter  – 2

I will practice this technique for my (concern)

Anxiety and to focus
Anxiety
Anxiety and Insomnia

My ‘Take home’ points

Counting the breaths using the fingers
Breathe
Tongue behind the teeth technique
Breathe and relax

Seminar evaluation

Very satisfied – 4

Comments

Very helpful
Looking forward to attending another session

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

Receive Annual Updates?

Yes – 3

Enroll  for ‘Follow up classes’ on this technique?

Yes – 3

Join a ‘Support group for Meditation’?       

Yes – 1

Continuers
Meditation on breathing

When did I practice? 

Falling asleep: A few times -2
During the day: When I feel I have too much to do

How did it help me? 

Made me feel relaxed

Gentle Yoga

I practiced

Frequently

Future classes

I want to continue: Yes

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

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Seminar – Yoga & Meditation

I offered the fifth seminar at venture Inward  on March 24, 2016 from 6.30 to 8.30 pm (1). Attended by 12 people – 9 female and 2 male and one girl. A folder containing my key handouts  and sample testimonials was given to each participant (2), (3). 

Scanned images of the feedback forms (w/o indetities) – PDF

Summary of the Feedback

I will use this technique for my (concern) 

  • Falling asleep
  • Mental relaxation
  • Sleep and relaxing
  • Stress and sleeping
  • Asthma
  • Sleep and relaxation
  • Energy (mental), Focus, Calmness, Sleep
  • Stress reduction
  • Stress, sleep
  • Spiritual health
  • Relaxation, when stress increases
  • Family stress

My ‘Take home’ points

  • To calm ‘Monkey mind’; I like the idea of a back door to meditation. I am going to try this! Thank you!
  • This helped me understand meditation better. Breakthrough!
  • Breathing using fingers, stretching on Yoga mat.
  • Relaxing.
  • Practice breathing.
  • Easy to do.
  • Several of the breathing methods, yoga stretches.
  • Stretches, Great breathing techniques.
  • Practice, enjoy, let it happen.
  • Don’t worry about your breaths. Some are short and some are long.

Seminar evaluation

  • Very satisfied – 12

Comments

  • I live in Cambridge, so it is too far to come for a meditation group.
  • Awesome.
  • I will most likely contact ‘C S’ to further the practice.
  • Very enjoyable, do-able, for all ages/ body types.
  • I thought it was great.
  • Can’t wait to teach the grandkids and use it for myself.
  • Would love to continue more workshops to add to what we have learned and make sure I am doing it correctly, to remember the techniques.

I recommend this seminar to (groups)

  • Yes – 2
  • Friends.
  • As always I do – to Venture Inward folks. (Margaret Kaufman the owner of this business, a clinical hypnotist).
  • Anyone -Seniors – Healthcare providers – Caregivers of ill family or friends – kids.

I wish to

  • Receive annual updates on ‘focusing on breathing’ – 8
  • Enrol for follow up classes on today’s techniques – 7
  • Join a support group for Meditation – 5

(1) ‘Venture Inward’ at 568 Columbia Turnpike East Greenbush NY 12061
(2) Documents for download – All handouts
(3) Sample testimonials – 16

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@ “Easy and Effective. It works! “

I thank Chaitanya Mudivarthy Ph.D (1), my nephew, for posting this recommendation for me in Linkedin.  I am delighted that he highlights the most important aspect of the techniques – that it suits today’s busy people who can’t spare time for Yoga and such practices.

“CS Rao (Suryanarayana Chennpragada) is an excellent yoga practitioner. He is one of the few who realized the problem with current generation – impatience and lack of time to put yoga into practice in their daily routine. His solution to this is simple and practical – ‘counting breaths’ (2). This technique works!

I have been practicing this technique since 2006 with great results.

I have suggested the technique to numerous friends with ADD, anxiety disorders, and depression. One thing I hear back is how easy and effective the technique is.

Above all, CS Rao is an excellent human being with tremendous knowledge in general in the fields of science, medicine, and spirituality.”

(1) Chaitanya Mudivarthy – Linkedin Page
(2) ‘Counting breaths’ is an ancient technique devised by the Buddha 2500 years back. My adaptations of this technique to suit busy beginners are two. One is using the fingers. This practice leashes the mind far more effectively than just counting the breaths in the mind. The second adaptation is for beginners to practice lying in the bed at night and morning to make the practice ‘excuse free’ and get them hooked on it. These have  made this ancient technique available to people of all ages and cultures.

The ‘focusing on breathing’ practices presented in this site are radically different from Yogic breathing practices. Yogic breathing practices require you to change the current pattern of breathing, to conform to the given guidelines. We are warned to learn those practices from a trained teacher, to avert potential harm from wrong practice.

In contrast, these breathing practices do not suggest any pattern for breathing, except in one mode. We passively watch the breaths, like watching the actors on a movie screen. These practices are totally safe whatever way you do them, even for children.

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@ Insomnia and stress relieved

I was periodically meeting an young person in a store. He was obese. I gave him my handouts (2) and suggested to try the technique (1) at night, to enjoy good sleep (4).  Whenever I met him on business, I inquired about his practice and spoke a few encouraging words. I also loaned him two books on eating healthy (6). He practiced the ‘focusing on breathing’ technique (1) by himself for about 9 months. He told me that he had severe insomnia and depression for many years and was on medication. He shared the following feedback when he came to my first class. His previous report on cutting down his mental health medicines is at (5). 

Insomnia

Before: He had insomnia almost all his life. Sometimes he could not sleep for two days in a row.

Now: He has been using the segment mode (3) and enjoying sound sleep.  His insomnia is completely resolved.

 Stress at work

Before: He works in a packing and shipping store. Being the person responsible for handling customer complaints about damaged parcels, he had to face the angry outbursts of some customers, sometimes even threatening physical gestures. Such situations were unnerving and extremely  stressful to him.

Now: He is able to keep his cool in such situations. The claims due to damaged parcels upset the owner of the store as she had to bear the losses. She used to take out her frustration on the employees. One day all the employees were almost walking out of the store. This guy was the one who kept his cool and persuaded the other employees to stay back, explaining that the owner was behaving like that due to her own stress and she did not mean to hurt their feelings. He is surprised at this dramatic change in his own attitude and attributes it to his practicing this calming technique.

(1) How can I focus on breathing?
(2) Documents for download
(3) Segment mode
(4) Hows to enjoy quality sleep and conquer insomnia?
(5) His previous feedback on cutting down mental health medicines
(6) Two books:  “Eat more, Weigh less” by Dean Ornish M.D and “Mindless eating” by Brain Wansink Ph.D. He liked these books and started using the ideas from them, like cutting down his meat consumption. He also started practicing Yoga at home using a DVD. He lost about 20 lbs. as  a result.

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@ A practical no-nonsense approach that really works

Testimonial from Alfred (1) who had great hidden potential for meditation and spiritual growth that was just waiting for a spark to explode (sort of). His experience illustrates the quote in the spiritual filed “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”.

He found my website on-line among other local organizations for Yoga and meditation. He felt that he found what he was just looking for. He attended only 3 classes and took off unbelievably on his own, like no other client.

He has been kind enough to e-mail his insights and experiences (2) and let me publish them under the pseudonym ‘Alfred’. I am learning from his insights. I was puzzled why with all his inherent wisdom, he needed to learn the very simple breathing and stretching techniques I teach. When I queried  him and asked for his testimonial he sent this wonderful description. This is the kind of endorsement I was looking for all these years. These techniques do help people like him with hidden potential, to make a simple beginning and then keep going on their own steam.  I am grateful to  Alfred for this feedback and his periodic insights and experiences.

“I am a middle aged businessman who in most all respects enjoys a good life.  I have enough money to keep me from worrying, my relationships with wife, family and friends are good and so is my health.  Despite all of my good fortune I was aware for some time of some missing element in my life.  I had always been interested in the human mind and have read quite a lot about cognition and psychology.  The one message I received over and over again was that the practice of meditation with mindfulness as a goal is something which many very credible people advocate.

I did a quick Google search and found Suryanarayana Chennapragada’s (CS) web site.  CS has developed a simple meditation technique which combines counting breaths and simple yoga to create a calming disposition.

I met with CS and took 6 (3) private classes.  Since attending those classes, I have only missed 2 days of meditation, both because of international travel.

I like CS’s approach very much because, not only is it immediately effective, but also because it is not steeped in any religious dogma or “new age” philosophy.  It is a practical no-nonsense approach that really works well for me.

I look forward to my hourly morning meditation.  It centers me for my busy days, allows me to turn off the noise in my head and enjoy the present and it has enhanced my personal relationships. “

(1) Alfred 
(2) Alfred’s progress – Posts 
(3) Actually he attended 3 classes but felt they were six. May be because we had a great rapport!

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