Most of my job is writing. I do it well, and I enjoy the results, but I don’t always enjoy the process itself. It’s one of those things that I’ll know I’ll be happy I did after. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself journal, and I have tried. I know it will be good for me, it’s supposed to be great for overthinkers (like me) and for processing emotions. I have been suggested journaling by more friends, blogs, podcasts, books, and therapists than I can count, but I just can’t make it stick. So I feel guilty and like I’ve failed. Until now!
I was recently reading a memoir by two women and one of them discussed how they would verbally journal with each other. They were continents apart at one point and would send each other short video messages about what was going on in their days, their lives. My mind was blown! Yes! I am a world-class, grade-A professional verbal journaler!
I have had a solid group of friends since my 20-year-old, Callum, was a baby. It started by signing up for Kindermusik. It was quickly apparent that most of the moms in the group were there for the adult companionship at least as much as the music education and socialization of our kids. We couldn’t stop talking over the instructor! Finally, I got up the courage to invite some of them to get together outside of class for a playgroup “for the kids.” And that was it. We got together weekly for nearly 10 years. Our lives have changed, but that group of friends still call ourselves “Playgroup.” We just have book clubs, ladies’ nights, and weekends away instead of getting together “for the kids.”
Together we have lost children and parents, survived cancer, navigated teenagedom, anxiety & depression, and now college semi-adults. There have been plenty of good times too! But I don’t know where I’d be without their love and support, and the ability to talk through difficult times. Just knowing I wasn’t alone and crazy was huge! Friends see us much more clearly than we see ourselves and can call BS, hold us to the promises we make to ourselves, and offer encouragement. Plus we could pool resources to counsel each other and offer advice whenever one of us went through something that another had already encountered.
As author Devon Hase said,
during the pandemic, talking with my partner in this way, every day, worked wonders on my stress level. It was so helpful just to know that my fear, sorrow, hope, disappointment, ideas, and all the rest were being heard for a few minutes every day.
I don’t necessarily talk to my friends every day, (although, another group of friends and I probably actually did talk daily during the first few months of the pandemic via Marco Polo). But when I talk with my friends over Marco Polo, texts, or a ladies’ night, I am doing all those same things others get from journaling… I looked it up!
Here are some of the benefits of both journaling and having a good friend or friends. Which do you think is which? (I’ll tell you at the end.)
The VA has this to say. Are they discussing verbal or written journaling? Click the link to find out.
Emotional expression has been found to be good for our health. It enhances our immune system functioning. When upsetting or traumatic events occur, we often are not able to fully process what happened, and the event and the emotions around what occurred become stuck in our memory. The simple act of expressing thoughts and feelings (with friends or on paper) about challenging and upsetting events can allow us to move forward by expressing and letting go of the feelings involved. (Expressive writing or verbal journaling) also provides an opportunity to construct a meaningful personal narrative about what happened. It brings clarity and enables us to place our experience into the context of our larger place in the world.
And there are more besides. Friends help us feel less isolated, have a sense of belonging, and live longer. Oprah calls it the talking cure. Journaling can boost our problem-solving skills and heighten academic performance while fostering less absenteeism at work.
If journaling works for you, that’s awesome…keep at it! The benefits are amazing. But if you’re like me and can’t make it stick, make sure you’re talking regularly to a friend or friends. Those benefits are equally amazing.
PS. Strategy A is friends & Strategy B is journaling