Every day, we are faced with constant stress. This is a good thing, because without it we would have no motivation or drive to get things accomplished. Mild to moderate stress (or arousal) is needed for us to continue moving forward and strive towards inner growth and success. Problems arise when our levels of stress become too high and impede us from functioning optimally.iso 45003
The negative effects of chronic stress on our psychological and physical health have long been known and continue to grow with new research findings. In order to deal with the increasing levels of stress we face on a daily basis, stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, and disclosing our feelings to a trusted friend have been successfully explored and utilized. One simple stress management technique that has often been overlooked is journaling.
The process of writing down your thoughts and feelings on a daily basis can be very liberating and conducive to better psychological health if done properly. Clarifying and structuring your thoughts on paper allows you to gain knowledge about the experience by raising self-awareness and introspection. In fact, it has been established that journaling not only contributes to better cognitive functioning and stress management but also strengthens the immune system thus increasing our physical health.
One of the common problems with journaling is that it is not always done properly. In order to reap the benefits of journaling, certain guidelines must be followed when writing about positive/negative emotions.
Writing About Negative Emotions
When writing about negative experiences and emotions, it is important to use an analytical approach rather than a descriptive one. By analyzing the situation and emotions, we engage in a problem solving cognitive process that can potentially reduce the intensity of the negative psychological consequences associated to the event. a positive psychology researcher, explains how using curiosity to gain insight from a certain negative experience/emotion can provide valuable learning information and lead to increased happiness.
Merely describing a negative event/emotion can make someone relive the negative experience by focusing on the negative and potentially increasing and prolonging the psychological toll on their well being. In a study by Philip M. Ullrich, M.A. and Susan K. Lutgendorf, Ph.D., subjects whose journals focused solely on emotions reported greater negative emotional effects whereas those who focused on both cognitions and emotions reported gaining awareness of positive benefits resulting from the negative experience they wrote about.
Writing About Positive Emotions
Experiencing positive emotions makes us feel good and temporarily increases our happiness levels. When we experience more positive than negative emotions, its effects can benefit our health, expand our creativity and increase our overall satisfaction with life. When writing about our positive emotions, it is important to describe the events that led to our emotions. The trick is to try to relive the event, savor the positive emotions, and continue to feel its effects long after the event has passed. Describing (and later rereading) these positive events in a journal is an efficient way to do this. Do not analyze the information, just describe and savor the positive emotions as you relive the experience. This will allow you to increase your levels of positivity by re-experiencing the positive events in your mind.