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The power of writing: Journaling is good therapy during the pandemic, psychologists say

By Heather Simonsen, KSL TV | Posted - Jul. 31, 2020 at 10:08 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY – It can be hard dealing with emotions when there's so much beyond our control during this pandemic.

But there is a simple and scientifically proven way to process what we are feeling and improve our mental health.

It all starts with picking up a pen.

Being a new mom can be challenging. While Brianna Moffett of America Fork loves it, raising her son Harvey during the pandemic is tough.

"I had a winter baby, which makes you a little bit shut in for the winter, and then COVID happened,” she said. “I just feel like I've been a little bit isolated."

She finds journaling helps. "Just like art, journaling is another way to talk about what you're going through right now."

Moffett makes journals, and sells them at her Etsy shop, Flyleaf Bookbinding, and encourages expressive writing.

"It's just you and your journal, and you're just able to talk about what you're feeling," Moffett said.

Experts say focusing on emotions or suppressing them can cause high blood pressure and mental health problems. Expressing what we are feeling helps us find balance in a productive way.

"It allows you to acknowledge some problems or some feelings that you have, and at the same time not get stuck in them,” said Bryan Bushman, a psychologist at Intermountain Healthcare.

Bushman recommends the following tips:

Start small

  • Set aside time to do it each day.
  • Avoid judging yourself harshly.
  • Journal for yourself only: a free flow of ideas and honest feelings.

"We're talking about you having a safe space to feel whatever it is you need to feel and transfer it from here to somewhere else, so you can kind of get some distance from it," Bushman said.

And it doesn't have to be fancy, or even written.

"You can record in your cell phone on a memo, if you wanted to. But there's no need to do grammar, because your English teacher's not going to see this," he said.

Moffett said, "Sometimes, just drawing, putting things in that you find, pressing leaves, just anything, kind of helps you have that connection to yourself."

There are shortcuts to help you get started. "I really love journal prompts because I get writer's block all the time,” Moffett said. “And I don't know what to say, and so I pull one out of a jar and kind of go off of that."

You can keep a second journal for posterity. "I feel like this time is so unique and especially being a mom now, I want to be able to document that and share it with Harvey when he's older."

Sharing the joys and difficulties of an unprecedented time.

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