Even though I knew how much journaling helped me make decisions, solve problems and reflect on the person I was becoming, I let life—work, kids, other responsibilities—take over and didn’t journal during most of my twenties. During those years, I developed endometriosis, tendinitis, Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis and other autoimmune illnesses.
In my early thirties, after my mom died, my Crohn’s disease flared up and I dropped to ninety pounds, unable to digest food normally. I made mistakes at work, snapped at my children and avoided my friends. I wanted to curl up in a ball and stay in bed. But each winter morning, I lit a candle, practiced yoga and wrote in my journal—which became a way to coach myself back to health.
Although I didn’t know it then, journal writing has been proven to combat stress and help treat eating disorders, depression, addiction and other psychologically rooted problems. And people who write about past traumas show stronger immune systems.
With more awareness of my behavior and how it affected my health, I realized how much a dairy-free, gluten-free diet and a well-paced life benefited me. I no longer needed Remicade infusions and other medications to keep my autoimmune illnesses at bay.
Soon I renewed my friendships, enrolled in graduate school and embarked on a new career—all goals I set and fulfilled with the help of daily journal writing.
Now in my forties, my morning journal-writing practice still fuels my days. It’s also given me the confidence to share the benefits of journaling with college students, wellness-coaching clients and community members at journaling workshops and yoga-writing workshops as well as through a blog read by people around the world.
Jenny Patton teaches writing at The Ohio State University, works as a Mayo Clinic-certified wellness coach and is a registered yoga instructor.
At www.journalingwithjenny.blogspot.com, she posts journal prompts designed to help people learn more about themselves and become who they want to be.
To receive prompts by email, contact email@example.com or @JournalWJenny.