How I Help Others By Helping Myself
A while ago the staff at Health Union posed a question: Why did you become an advocate? I was honest. I told them it was rather accidental. Through the back door. I started writing for my own blog purely for selfish motives. I needed to heal myself.
It was only later that other people started to benefit, at least I HOPE they started to benefit, from my work. That benefit was, at least initially, a side effect.
Writing to heal
I wrote because I needed to write. In psychotherapy, people tell their stories in efforts to heal. I was doing that in written form. You probably know it is called journaling.
The benefits of journaling
Journaling is tried and true in psychology. PositivePsychology.com posted an article about the 83 - wow! That should give me enough to talk about here! - benefits of journaling. They suggest journaling improves mood and sense of well-being. It decreases depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress not to mention improving working memory.
Journaling for depression
Writing for depression? The PositivePsychology.com people tell us journaling gives people the opportunity to release pent-up negative emotions. It also helps to build a buffer between negative thoughts and sense of well-being.
Journaling for anxiety
Journaling for anxiety? Journaling helps you examine your thought processes. You can explore your inner experiences and enhance self-awareness. Journaling even allows you to track your progress by looking back and seeing how far you have come.
(A personal note here. There came a time with my own blog that I was no longer “relatable.” The angst was gone. Journaling had helped me work through it.)
Journaling for stress
What else? How about stress? Journaling helps you reduce related health issues. It contributes to a healthier immune system. Journaling even gives you a way to examine your options and consider a variety of possible outcomes.1
Writing styles and guidelines
I generally write (...and write and write) in sort of a flow of conscious manner. Free-style, as it were. However, there are all sorts of suggestions available if free-style is not your style.
The Center for Journal Therapy has a guideline called WRITE. That is:
- What do you want to write about?
- Review or reflect on your topic.
- Investigate your thoughts and feelings through your writing.
- Time yourself.
- Exit strategically and with intersection.
What can you write about?
But what do you do if you don’t know how to start? The authors of the article suggest you write about experiences, describe your actions and your thoughts of the day.2 Still stuck?
- Write affirmations about yourself or, maybe even better, write things you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude has its own list of super positive effects.
- Critical self-analysis might give you grist for the journaling mill. Who am I and what am I doing with my life?
- Or, dig deep. Look for the roots of your feelings and write about the excavation process.
- Or, record things as they happen. What did you focus on in your writing?
- Or, last, write about your performance on something. How did you do?
Any of these should give you plenty of material to write about.
Advocate? Pretty accidental, actually. But sometimes taking care of yourself can lead to taking care of others.
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