by Ruth Stella MacLean

How writing in your journal can change your perspective

One of the techniques I advocate in my book Living Successfully with Chronic Pain is keeping a journal in which you record your levels of pain, your activities and your thoughts and feelings.

It has been a big help to me when I am talking to health professional about the best way to proceed with my treatment, and especially the management of my pain.

I was also able to chart patterns, to see which activities seemed to lessen my pain and which ones seemed to increase it. With a little help from my journal I could figure out what was happening to me and more importantly, what was likely to happen to me when I did certain things.

The most amazing result was that my journal allowed me to see how big a role my emotional state played in the level and duration of my pain.

I came across the scientific studies of James Pennebaker, a University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher. He determined through his work that when we write about stressful events, it helps us to come to terms with them, and that in turn reduces the impact of mental stress on our physical health.

Other studies into why journaling works indicated it helps us remove mental blocks and in the process, helps us to better understand ourselves.

Many journal writers are concerned that if they just let themselves go without restraint when they write about their pain that it would be unbearable if their spouse or someone close to them ended up reading it.

My advice is to write without restraint for the full benefit to you, but be judicious about the parts of your journal that you share. Keep your journal in a safe and private place, or get one of the many books with a lock, and then use it to unburden yourself and tell it like it really is.

In this way you will get a better understanding of your feelings in relation to your life with pain—a huge benefit in the long term.

To me, the additional benefits of keeping a pain journal are that it helped me to clarify my thoughts. I noticed my pattern of behavior changing. When I began the journal, I started each entry with a lament for the past; later I moved to talking about the problems of dealing with the present, and ultimately, it led me to a new place where I began to make plans to restructure my life with chronic pain.

For the first time since my pain started, I began to concentrate on what was possible, as opposed to what wasn’t. Keeping a journal helped me to begin my search for a new life, a life that made room for my pain.

Ruth Stella MacLean, author of Living Successfully with Chronic Pain, is a former nurse and hospital administrator turned bestselling novelist. Her chronic pain, which forced her to give up her career as a health professional, opened a new door for her to become a successful romantic suspense writer. To order her book on chronic pain, click on the title below.

Living Successfully With Chronic Pain

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Ruth Stella MacLean, author of Living Successfully with Chronic Pain, welcomes your stories and inquiries.

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