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Guest Post: Journaling and Your Health

Jamie Sperling

We are honored to have the expertise of Marian Frick Rigsbee, LCSW, MAC from Orion Counseling LLC to share how journaling can benefit your health.

 

Motherhood journaling intuitively sounds like a good idea: capturing silly memories of your little ones, processing the triumphs and challenges of motherhood, ending the day or week expressing gratitude for the moments that make parenthood so joyful. But then—dishes. Errands. Emails. Grocery lists. Pediatrician appointments. And on and on. How, you’re asking yourself, could I possibly make time to journal? Right, I will just add that to the list of Things That I Will Get to Someday. You know, things like scrapbooking, getting supplies for all of those adorable children’s crafts on Pinterest, and reading War & Peace. In my private practice, I work with many mothers. Often the first words out of their mouths in a session are: “I’m overwhelmed.” As a mother of two young ones I can, of course, relate to this. Always so much to do! However, like many therapists, I consider myself lucky in that I have somewhat of a personal arsenal of tools for managing stress and maintaining wellness.  

Journaling can be used to express gratitude, capture a memory, or just to jot down one’s thoughts. For me, it is a wonderful way to capture memories of this special season of life, a mindfulness as well as a gratitude practice, and a way to remind myself of what is important, all in one. It is an antidote to stress, and the precise opposite of my To-Do list. I often introduce journaling to clients toward the end of our work with one another as a means to remain well and increase happiness. Significant research supports these ideas. 


Journaling, in all its iterations, can be helpful in boosting mood, increasing the amount of time we may spend exercising, improving cardiovascular health, and improving sleep, to name just a few. So how can you make the most of journaling so that you might benefit and in turn, be more joyful and present? 

  • Supercharge it. That’s therapy jargon for pairing the activity with another mood-booster to get double the positive effect. Can you journal while enjoying a cup of your favorite tea? Perhaps you pair it with a value-laden activity. You try to buy locally, and so maybe you journal while at your favorite neighborhood coffee shop.
  • Be detailed in your writing to strengthen positive memories. Say you’re writing about a special moment with your daughter in the park. Describe the emotions you felt, the look on your daughter’s face when she smiled, what weather was like, and other details. This helps solidify it in your memory. 
  • If gratitude is your goal in journaling, aim to do it weekly. Research indicates that focusing intently once a week on what we’re grateful for may be more effective than doing so daily, perhaps because there’s somewhat of a “discontinuation effect,” or simply put, we get tired of it. When I first began with my Motherhood Journal two years ago, I immediately took note that it was set up to be weekly, and at the same time flexible. 
  • No matter how, when, or why you journal, go easy on yourself. Self-compassion is intimately tied to the way we feel, communicate, work, and live. So if you journal daily, or accidentally skip a few weeks—know that you’re doing what works for you. I’ve had mine for perhaps two years now, and there are a few gaps. But, one thing I know for sure is that I—along with every mother I have ever met—am doing my very best. 

As the holidays are upon on us…cheers to being a happy and healthy mama!

 

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