Tag Archives: journals

Tip Of The Day!

1 Apr

(photo credit: Best Health)

I have definitely had nightmares before! They can truly be frightening 😦

Nightmare triggers
Nightmares can be caused by medications, oddball genes, degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, last night’s tamales, traumatic events in the present, never-healed wounds from the past that a recent event has unmasked, and gut-level threats to health, safety, and the very sense of who you are.

Those who put a lid on expressing how they feel in response to stressful events during the day are likely to be taken for a ride by those emotions in the form of nightmares at night. And some, particularly people who are open and sensitive, may have a “thin” boundary between what’s real and what’s a dream—which means that their waking life is more than likely to stir up their night life and cause some pretty hairy dreams.

“A nightmare is a dysfunctional dream,” explains Rosalind Cartwright, director of the sleep disorder service at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. Instead of integrating the day’s events and feelings with older, stored memories and defusing negative emotions — which is what some researchers feel a dream is supposed to do — the emotions your brain is processing overload your circuits, prevent their integration into older memories, and jerk you from sleep.

If you’re in a bad car accident, for example, you may not be able to process all the negative emotions the accident generates right away, says Cartwright. The fear and your sense of vulnerability and mortality are overwhelming. So you may have nightmares for a while as your mind keeps working away at integrating your feelings. Once it does, however, the nightmares go away.

As Cartwright writes in her book Crisis Dreaming, “Nightmares are a cry for resolution for finding a way to incorporate the terrible experience into our lives. Occasional nightmares are normal,” she adds. “But not nightly, and not over and over again.”

How to banish nightmares
Nightmares are a sign of overload. Check with a doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist if you’re depressed, if they recur, or if you discover that your dreams are caused by distressing feelings from the past that have been triggered by current events. Otherwise, here’s how Cartwright suggests you keep them at bay:

• Recognize that the dream is bad while you’re having it. This may sound impossible to do, but it’s not. Simply resolve that you’re going to do this before you fall asleep. It may take a few tries, but you’ll get the hang of it.

• Identify what in the dream makes you feel bad. What are the feelings or events involved?

• Stop any bad dream. Believe it or not, you can do it — often simply by recognizing that it’s bad.

• Change the ending. Turn what’s negative into something positive. You may have to wake up to do it, but eventually you’ll be able to tell yourself to write a better ending as you sleep.

• Keep a dream diary. Write down your dreams every morning. All your dreams, not just the nightmares. Then periodically review the ones that trouble you. Try to figure out why they’re upsetting.

Remember to keep your journal beside your pillow (or under, or even on your night stand) because trust me, you will not remember your dream in the morning!

Chapters/Indigo is horrible for searching (not for books), but there is no category for “Journals,” so I am left to suggest these wonderful journals from Borders.com.
Borders.com Journals

This is actually a free service! I *just* came across it.. It’s pretty fabulous. Not only is it free, but it works like a regular journal where you can make everything private, everything public, or only have what you want public!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow, when I will be listing the 6 THINGS THAT WILL HELP YOU SLEEP!

Tip Of The Day!

22 Mar

How journal writing can make you healthier

Evidence that writing heals
Studies suggest that emotional or expressive writing can reduce high blood pressure, enhance immune function, decrease the severity of asthma and arthritis symptoms, promote wound healing, increase AIDS patients’ white blood cell counts and even help young people quit smoking. A study in the June 2008 Journal of Pain and Symptom Management reported that a group of cancer patients, who spent at least 20 minutes once a week for three weeks writing a story about how cancer affected them, experienced less pain and reported higher levels of well-being the more emotionally revealing their stories were.

How writing therapy works
None of this would surprise Isa Nevsky in Toronto. A diagnosis of Stage 4 colorectal cancer led this 57-year-old former nursery-school teacher and mother of three sons to a variety of alternative healing methods, including yoga, meditation and art therapy. Never a confident writer, Nevsky has nevertheless found jpurnal writing to be one of the most important therapies in the 14 years since she was told she had just six weeks to live. This was especially true after she joined “Writing for the Health of It,” a program for cancer patients and their families provided through Wellspring, a network of cancer-support centres.

Instructor Ariella Damelin, who did her doctorate in education with a focus on narrative inquiry, provides a variety of writing exercises for participants to work on each week for eight weeks, culminating in a personal writing portfolio. None of Damelin’s exercises, however, involves writing about being sick. Prompts such as “write about a book that changed your life” or “write a letter to yourself as a child”—without regard to grammar, spelling or the “inner critic”—lead to narratives that may or may not touch on illness, but often uncover meaningful old stories and relevant new perspectives. “I’m interested in the power of story to create a feeling that you have a life that’s worth living, that you are not defined by your cancer—it’s only one part of you,” explains Damelin.

Nevsky describes the results as magical: “I saw a side of me that I didn’t know I had. Damelin’s topics always brought out something you weren’t expecting. I’ve never seen so many tears of sadness end up as tears of joy and laughter.”

The science behind writing for health
James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a pioneer in the study of writing as a healing tool, says he’s not interested in whether journal writing makes people “feel nice,” but only in empirical evidence of its ability to improve physical well-being—and he’s found that in abundance. His research involves writing about trauma. While popular theories hold that disclosing emotions and secrets is always beneficial because repressing them is hard work, Pennebaker’s research doesn’t support a public confessional approach. He favours writing that isn’t done for an audience. In some of his experiments, the participants even benefited from writing that was thrown out without having been read by anyone else.

Private vs. public writing
Pennebaker believes there’s something about the act of writing itself that helps us change how we feel about our lives. And he’s discovered that certain forms of writing may be better than others for the healing process. As with talk therapy, it appears that imposing some structure on writing and building a new narrative—as opposed to rehashing the same old stories and feelings over and over again—provides a perspective on and distance from life events that help us figure out what those events mean and how to handle them differently. In fact, writing only the details of traumatic events or writing only about our emotional responses can actually do more harm than good. It’s the combin ation of the two that seems to boost health. And he has written a workbook with exercises that anyone can do on their own with no need to share.

Writing therapy doesn’t work for everyone, says Pennebaker. There’s no evidence that daily writing over prolonged periods is fruitful, either; he suggests using it on an as-needed basis. He’s now studying what happens when writers change perspective by shifting from first person to third person (“I” to “she,” for example), based on the theory that the entirely self-absorbed writer may gain little insight, but that we may be able to better understand our tribulations by looking at the world through the eyes of others who were involved.

Dr. Allan Peterkin, a psychiatrist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, takes a more public approach. He helps run a writing therapy group for people living with HIV/AIDS and asks participants to use the same narrative tools that professional writers employ—such as specific detail, strong verbs and dialogue—to write a non-fiction story with a beginning, middle and end. No one is pushed to address issues they find too painful to face. “We encourage them to write for an im agined audience to flush out the story and make it fully comprehensible to others as well as themselves,” he says, adding that participants read their stories aloud to the group, and have published them in a book.

Blogging for health
Public or private, the key is finding what works. Tasha Westerman, a 35-year-old human resources professional and mother of a toddler in Calgary, has been battling breast cancer while her husband deals with a brain tumour and her best friend with leuk emia. She tried writing in one of the many blank journals people gave her after her diagnosis, but it would never stick. “Writing to myself didn’t have much meaning,” she says.

Her sole motivation in starting a blog was a practical one: “I felt a lot of pressure with so many supporters always calling the house or emailing, wanting to know every day how things were going.” Her blog relieved that pressure, but it proved rewarding in other ways, too.

“When one has cancer, the information flows in quickly and decisions need to be made even faster,” Westerman explains. “I found blogging was a great way to collect my thoughts and summarize what had happened at medical appointments, and to reaffirm the decisions I’d made.” What’s more, emotional support poured in on her comments page, not only from loved ones but from strangers. And though she didn’t set out to expose her emotions, they came out anyway. “When I know I’m writing to others, I get more out of it,” Westerman says. “I learn new things about myself or how I feel about something because it does just flow out of me. It’s a way of gaining perspective on what’s going on.”

Admitting she would once have been the first to pooh-pooh the notion that blogging could yield health benefits, Westerman is now convinced that because it reduces her stress levels, writing for her online audience is one more thing that’s keeping her alive.

    Try this exercise:

In Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval, Pennebaker suggests this simple exercise for anyone bothered by a current stressful event or past turmoil.

• Write for 20 minutes per day for four days.
• Write about a major conflict or stressor in your life, something personal and important; you can write about the same one four times, or write about different ones.
• Write without stopping; don’t worry about spelling and grammar.
• Write this for your eyes only.
• If writing about something makes you unbearably upset, stop.

Journal Writing