Something unique happens when you sit in a quiet space and give yourself time to put pen to paper. Writing can be as therapeutic as a great massage or cathartic as a conversation with a good friend or trained counsellor.
Handwriting is especially useful. That on-the-spot flow of thoughts into indelible words on paper has a powerful effect on your brain. For instance, writing boosts creativity and improves memory and retention. Handwriting also helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It helps with learning and comprehension, even where learning disabilities exist. In addition, writing enhances your focus and improves your prioritization skills.
At the Untold Stories Studio, we see journaling as a vital wellness and well-being tool. Aside from the close connection between journaling and lived experience storytelling, we use journaling to help strengthen emotional function while processing experiences and events.
But there are drawbacks to journaling. Without the right kind of support, journaling can destructively reactivate feelings. We teach people how to adapt journaling as a creative activity that can help them process emotions and events without reactivating original feelings in a destructive or damaging way. As described in this article, an abstract approach to journal writing can lead to a more effective release of emotional distress. We offer creative and effective thought-processing opportunities in the Journal Together sessions at the Untold Stories Studio. Our process of using unique, research-driven prompts, followed by time for personal handwriting and an optional sharing period, is the hallmark of our community approach to journal writing as a tool for generating feelings of wellness and well-being.
We know that this approach to journaling takes time and practice. We also know that it works. Participants leave each session with a better understanding of their stressors and an appreciation of what they can do to change their responses.
For instance, in one recent journaling session, I invited participants to reflect on a prompt about feelings of stress and anxiety in the body and to write about it privately as journal notes. In that session, one participant spontaneously created this poem about what it feels like to hold the weight of a stressful conversation in their lived body.
What is most relevant about this creative representation is how the author attends to the lived-other relationship at the heart of their bodily feelings of stress and anxiety. The poem ends with a statement of power and purpose: "So I need to walk away... We can try again another day... When you have space... For me."
I am delighted to reproduce the poem with the author's permission.
Here is “A conversation for another day,” by Krist Hourd.
Across my mind float patterns past
Not the reaction I would have chosen
I know I can’t say what I’m wanting
Heart brought low
I wish I didn’t have to know
That you can’t hear me
Our two meanings refuse to be touching
So I need to walk away
We can try again another day
When you have the space
Poem by Kristy Hourd (as originally published on TenMillionBaskets.com).
For more insightful stories and poems from everyday people, and to read more of the journaling and storytelling work we have been permitted to share, visit the story-sharing hub tenmillionbaskets.com.