Write On! Journaling for the Mind, Body, and Spirit

Contributed by Jo Ellen Brainin-Rodriguez, MD, Board Member and Certified Trainer, Equilibrium Dynamics, and Psychiatric Consultant to the Trauma Recovery Center

After reading the article in the New York Times last Sunday “What’s All This About Journaling?" by Hayley Phalan, I was moved to reflect on my own experience with journaling. Just like the author I have kept journals off and on since I was a teenager. They took the form of a pink plastic covered “Diary” with a tiny little key I kept hidden in a drawer. Some were journals I kept for classes on writing for my teacher’s eyes. I was (on review years later) shockingly candid about my life, including a turbulent relationship, sexual activity and its consequences, as well as my then quite radical political views.

In EQD we have promoted journaling as a way to practice connecting emotions to events. This can enhance our ability to name emotions in a more precise, nuanced way, as well as provide a private place to process events, especially confusing or emotionally charged issues. As the reporter described the current research, writing that psychologists believe journaling works by allowing us to organize the events or issues in a coherent whole, which appears to free more energy for taking action on these issues. 

It was heartening to me to hear that it does not need to be an every-day thing. Also, that coherence, humor, or artistry are not required. Phew! But I can truly say that in the last decades, journaling has contributed to my ability to weather challenges during the illness and death of my mother, becoming a parent, professional transitions and many other times in my life where free floating anxiety, conflict, anguish and loss, threatened my equanimity—or emotional balance as we say in EQD. Free writing in my journal allowed me to identify patterns in my life, my own wants and values, allowing me, in an indirect way to make better and more emotionally intelligent decisions.

I’m intrigued now by the assertion of the article that writing in the morning allows for less ego to get involved, and who knows, maybe the emergence of dream material. Tonight I’m putting my journal next to my bed, with my favorite fountain pen, now full of emerald green ink, and see what happens!

|| November 6, 2018