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How To Keep A Journal


For our purposes, a journal is a private place to express your emotions and thoughts concerning your journey after a diagnosis. While you do not have control over a diagnosis, and you can feel out of control when going through treatment, you can control when you write and waht you write about.

Studies show that people who commit their deepest emotions to a private journal receive significant emotional health benefits. Many people find comfort in being creative or by writing their thoughts.

Studies have even shown that people who write about their most upsetting experiences not only feel better, but visit doctors less often and even have stronger immune responses.

A journal does not have to be kept in an expensive leather bound journal. It can be kept in an inexpensive notebook or even on  your computer (with password protection if other people use your computer.) In fact, a journal doesn't have to be written. For people who are more verbally inclined, a journal can be kept with an audio or video recorder. The key is a place you feel comfortable expressing your thoughts and that can be kept private if you so desire.

  • If you purchase a notebook, make sure it is a convenient size and shape. It should be large enough so you can write in it comfortably, yet small enough to be able to carry it around with you.
  • Use a permanent ink in case you want to review your entries in years to come.

When you make entries, it is preferable to do it in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. However, do not let interruptions keep you from making entries.

Write down what you feel in whatever manner best suits you.

  • There are no rules. 
  • Put down whatever comes to mind.
  • You do not have to follow any of the ususal writing rules. Consider experimenting with different ways of writing until you find the style that best allows you to express your emotions.
  • Your entires do not have to only be words. Feel free to draw or doodle in your journal. The journal is by and for you, so feel free to include anything you like.

Feel free to decorate the inside or outside of the journal in any way that suits you.

If you hand write your journal: Try to make your entries legible so you can read them later if you want to. The journal may also come in handy if you ultimately want to be considered to be "disabled" for insurance or work purposes. For instance, a journal could help show the medical condition known as depression which can be a disabling event by itself or when coupled with a physical condition. For more information, see "To Learn More."

If you keep your journal on a computer:

  • Be sure to back up your journal so you don't lose it if your computer crashes. (An easy way to back up a file is to send it to yourself as an attachment to an email).
  • Do not  keep your journal on your computer at work. Content on your work computer is considered to be property of your employer and subject to examination.

Do not be surprised if expressive writing makes you sad for a period of tie after doing it. The long term effects are worth the momentary sadness.

NOTE:  If you do not want other people to read your journal, be sure to keep it in a safe place.

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