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COLUMN: Journal writing as catharsis

Keeping a journal is a method of self care

Picture yourself sitting before a brand new, lined notebook with a good quality pen in hand.

What would you write about if there were no instructions or limitations, you could choose whatever subject you wanted?

The great potential that lies ahead is only a word or two away, for the minute you put pen to paper, the process has begun. But what should you write about? How about the subject you know best: yourself!

Keeping a journal is a proven method of self care and has many benefits to your health and well being.

You can reduce stress and anxiety by channeling negative or intense thoughts onto the paper.

Studies have shown that the act of writing forces you to slow down, focus on one thing at a time and process what you are feeling.

Dr. Julie Smith, a therapist and writer on self help techniques, has a new book titled, Why has nobody told me this before? Everyday tools for life’s up and downs.

Her book tackles issues such as how to manage anxiety, deal with criticism, cope with depression, etc by providing breathing techniques, visualizations and journaling prompts.

As you freely write, you might come up with a solution to a problem, perhaps leading to a cathartic experience.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of catharsis is “the process of releasing strong emotions through a particular activity or experience, such as writing or theatre, in a way that helps you understand those emotions.”

Writing is a powerful tool, and can suit other purposes.

There are lots of books on how journal writing helps you keep track of your goals and progress.

You might want to track your fitness, sketch out your dreams, practice writing about gratitude, or even keep a diary of your daily events. Big Dreams, Daily Joys, by Elise Blaha Cripe, offers simple to follow exercises for accomplishing day to day tasks while setting your sights on bigger goals. This book is perfect for people who are fans of journaling. Blaha Cripe encourages you to “set goals, get things done, make time for what matters.”

The library has a digital book (e-book) titled Draw your Day: an inspiring guide to keeping a sketch journal, by Samantha Dion Baker. In the introduction, the author speaks about how she kept a journal in high school, partly as a way to avoid doing homework and partly as a way for her to decompress.

She never wanted to reveal too much, just in case someone read her diary, so she decided to express serious thoughts and feelings through random doodles and drawings. Dion Baker says she only “hinted at the big stuff with a few words.”

Sketching is a different way to journal, a safe place to express yourself.

Stay tuned for upcoming library programs in the new year that will encourage your creativity, self expression, and catharsis through journal writing.

Get a head start by checking out these great books and more. See you at the library.

Caroline McKay is the community librarian at the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

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