Are you a worrier? Some of us are naturally prone to worry, due to temperament, past experiences, or both. Being aware of potential problems and circumventing them is a way to proactively manage stress, but chronically dwelling on all the ways a situation could potentially go wrong can bring higher levels of needless stress. If you tend to worry excessively, dwelling on your fears beyond
the point of 'constructive planning,' here's a study that can help you put your fears to rest!
Researcher Melissa Anne Iseri studied a group of people who were prone to worry, and compared them to a group who weren't. She then randomly assigned half the participants of each group to either practice therapeutic journaling for 20 minutes three days in a row, or write neutrally for the same period of time. Those who were writing therapeutically were specifically told to write about their feared outcomes in a positive light, focus on the potential benefits associated with their fears, and devise ways to cope with their fears; the neutral writers were asked to write about things that they didn't fear, like their activities from the day before.
As expected, those who had been excessive worriers found a significant reduction in their worry levels a week after the intervention. (The other three groups didn't show a significant change.)
A few things about this research were interesting:
1. A relatively short intervention--20 minutes of writing--can have not only a short-term impact on stress levels, but a measurable positive change in thinking that could be seen at least a week later.
2. Therapeutic journaling didn't have a significant impact on those who weren't already prone to excessive worry; the real benefits were seen by those who worried too much, and may feel the need for such a journaling intervention.
3. Just the act of journaling in itself didn't have an impact; therapeutic journaling involved writing about fears, finding the "bright side" in their worst-case scenarios, and brainstorming effective coping strategies.
If you think you may be a chronic worrier, you may want to try this yourself. Give yourself a few 20-minute journaling sessions where you look at potential benefits of what you fear, assess the coping strategies you have available, and basically develop optimism. Keep it up for 3 days, or maintain the practice for as long as you feel a benefit. Focusing your mental energy in a more positive direction can bring lasting relief for excessive worry.
The Benefits of Journaling: How to Get Started?
The benefits of journaling have been scientifically proven. Journaling can be an effective tool for stress management and personal growth. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Time Required: 10-20 Minutes a Day
1. Buy a Journal This seems like the obvious first step. However, what kind of a journal you purchase is important. You can choose from the most beautiful blank books you can find, to a more functional notebook, to your computer. If you go with the blank book option, you can decide between lined or blank pages, with a variety of pens. Use your book to reflect your creativity, or go with functionality first. It’s all up to you and your tastes.
2. Set Aside Time One of the most difficult aspects of journaling is not the journaling itself, but finding time to write. It’s important to block off about twenty minutes each day to write. Many people prefer to write in the morning as a way to start their day, or before bed, as a way to reflect upon and process the day’s events. However, if your lunch break or some other time is the only window you have, take the time whenever you can get it!
3. Begin Writing Don’t think about what to say; just begin writing and the words should come. If really need some help getting started, here are some topics to begin the process:
· Your dreams
· Your possible purpose in life
· Your childhood memories and surrounding feelings
· Where you’d like to be in two years
· The best and worst days of your life
· If you could have three wishes…
· What was important to you five years ago, and what’s important to you now
· What are you grateful for?
4. Write About Thoughts and Feelings As you write, don’t just vent negative emotions or catalog events; write about your feelings, but also your thoughts surrounding emotional events. (Research shows much greater benefits from journaling when participants write about emotional issues from a mental and emotional framework.) Relive events emotionally, and try to construct solutions and ‘find the lesson’. Using both aspects of yourself helps you process the event and find solutions to problems.
5. Keep Your Journal Private If you’re worried that someone else may read your journal, you’re much more likely to self-censor, and you won’t achieve the same benefits from writing. To prevent the worry and maximize journaling effectiveness, you can either get a book that locks or keep your book in a locked or very hidden place. If using a computer, you can password-protect your journal so you’ll feel safe when you write.
1. Try to write each day.
2. Writing for at least 20 minutes is ideal, but if you only have 5 minutes, write for 5.
3. If you skip a day or 3, just keep writing when you can.
4. Don’t worry about neatness or even grammar. Just getting your thoughts and feelings on paper is more important than perfection.
5. Try not to self-censor; let go of ‘shoulds’, and just write what comes.
What You Need:
· A journal and pen or a computer
· A few minutes of quiet privacy each day
· That’s it!
By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide
Our motoo: One step ahead, everyday.