Self-Discovery Through Journaling

When Tana Fletcher first heard about journaling, she wasn't impressed — until she tried it. "I thought it was a Dear Diary type of thing. I remember from growing up and writing, Dear Diary, today Johnny looked at me," says Tana. "But journaling is different because I put my emotions on paper."

Through keeping a journal, Lorraine Gordon discovered a safe place to explore her deepest thoughts and feelings. "I released the angst I felt toward my father, who was an alcoholic," she explains. "Journaling also helped me decide to get my master's degree and pursue new career interests. It changed my life."

Lorraine's love of journaling led her to form Journaling Concepts, a company that offers journaling workshops for women in the Washington, D.C., area. "In the beginning, write about everything and anything.

Don't worry about grammar, spelling or penmanship. Write the way you speak and don't be afraid of the truth," she suggests. "Simply put, journaling is baring your heart on paper."

Journaling is not only good for your heart, it's good for your health. Studies show that people who put their most traumatic experiences on paper not only feel better but visit doctors less often and even have stronger immune responses. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that writing exercises can help alleviate symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

A few weeks after Lenore Walsh's father died, she learned that the lump in her breast was malignant. "I cried and wrote in my journal constantly," says Lenore. "As painful as it was, I wrote about my feelings. Now that I'm cured, I love to read where I was at that point because I'm not there anymore."

Lynn Drake documents her sorrows and her successes. "After years of journaling, I began to see patterns and gained empathy for myself and the struggles I went through. Often I find hope through my journaling," she explains, "but sometimes I find it more helpful to write about the great days. With journaling, you can become your own best friend."

Most women keep their journals private. Some women lock them up at home or in a safety deposit box at the bank. Karen Kullgren actually unlocks her emotions by sharing her journal entries with some trusted friends.

"A group of us meet monthly. Through our journals, we've carried each other through deaths of children, deaths of parents, marital changes and more," she says. "In writing alone we reflect and we express, we release and vent. In a group we do this too, but we also listen and we are heard."