Healing Trauma through Journaling and Storytelling
By Melissa Camacho
Journaling and expressive writing heals trauma because it helps you develop an understanding and transform feelings of emotional distress through storytelling (Lewis). When you experience trauma, you are in a state of emotional pain from hurtful, fearful, and stressful experiences. There are different types of traumatic events that can affect your mental and physical health. This includes moments where you may feel threatened, abandoned, neglected, humiliated, neglected, or unwanted (Trauma). In this article, you will learn about diverse ways you can process emotional trauma through journaling.
How Trauma Affects Your Physical and Mental Health
Who does trauma affect? It can affect anyone at any age. However, at any point in time, seeking any type of psychological therapy or emotional health is beneficial and that includes journaling. Trauma affects everyone differently, which means people’s reaction to trauma varies. According to medical research, trauma can trigger your well-being both psychologically and physically by (Basile):
- Triggering emotional responses, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause you to develop repeating thoughts and react to traumatic experiences over time.
- Weakening your immune system, which can make your body prone to physical illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
- Causing hormone levels to be unbalanced, such as increased levels of cortisol that affect your heart, and decrease oxytocin, which is a hormone that regulates your mood and social responses when interacting with society.
In addition, trauma affects your brain activity over time. Scientific research proves that trauma impacts the left side of the brain’s function for social interaction, which can affect relationships, and it affects the right side of the brain that is responsible for creative thinking (The Right Brain and Healing Trauma). This means when trauma gets stored in your mind, it can minimize your ability to develop ideas and communicate with others. As a result, it can also make you less productive. In the next section, you will learn how journaling increases cognition and expands the outcomes of your self-reflection and creative self-expression to heal trauma.
The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Journaling to Ease Trauma
You can boost cognition in the right and left side of your brain by practicing expressive writing to stimulate analytical and creative thinking activities (McDonald). Clinical studies prove that expressive writing works as a healing tool to release emotional trauma by decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress (Glass, et al.). How you choose to write about your traumatic experiences is something you are entitled to without interference or judgment. This is because through journaling and expressive writing, the purpose for which you write validates your story. Writing about any type of stressful or traumatic event helps you reduce the intensity of your emotions by helping you see situations in a different perspective (Embrace the Healthful Effects of Journaling). In other words, you are highlighting intense emotions of fear, grief, and pain in order to know what needs to be acknowledged and driven out.
How Sharing Traumatic Stories Promotes Your Mental Health through Resonating
Journaling can be more effective in driving out intense emotions when resonating your feelings with others. It helps you to further have an understanding of who you are and elaborate on traumatic events. However, you must make sure you are in a secure comfort zone before you share your story with others. For example, Yannick Thoraval, a professor from RMIT University, encourages his students to first journal about traumatic events in order to be able to identify and evaluate their experiences before resonating with others (Thoraval).
Through expressive writing, you can advance an understanding of your emotions through the act of emotional resonance. According to The Missouri Review, emotional resonance is used by storytellers in writing to evoke readers by using words to arouse emotional reactions to the author’s or character’s emotions (Barrett). Therefore, your self-expression and self-reflection in journaling helps to produce catharsis as well when others resonate to your traumatic experiences. In turn, this helps you to observe common behavioral patterns and reactions to trauma, and transform your emotions into passion and pursuit. It also helps you gain a better understanding of yourself and think of productive ways to fulfill your goals and desires.
You can begin processing and transforming emotional trauma through your own creative self-expression at The Love Story’s multimedia journaling program. We provide you the opportunity to tell your story and explore the reasons behind your emotions in a user-friendly virtual environment.
“Embrace the Healthful Effects of Journaling” Facty Health. 19 Jan 2021
“The Right Brain and Healing Trauma” Praxes. 23 Jun 2021. https://www.praxesmodel.com/the-right-brain-and-healing-trauma
“Trauma” Mind. Accessed 24 Nov 2022. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/trauma/about-trauma/
Barrett, Lindsey “Writing Beyond Good: Creating Emotional Resonance” The Missouri Review. 21 Feb 2014. https://www.missourireview.com/writing-beyond-good-creating-emotional-resonance/
Basile, Lisa Marie “How Trauma Impacts Your Health” EndocrineWeb. 3 Sep 2020. https://www.endocrineweb.com/how-trauma-impacts-your-health
Glass, Oliver et al. “Expressive writing to improve resilience to trauma: A clinical feasibility trial.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice vol. 34 (2019): 240-246. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2018.12.005
Lewis, Jordan Gaines “Turning Trauma Into Story: The Benefits of Journaling” Psychology Today. 17 Aug 2012.
McDonald, Marjorie “Compare Left and Right Brain Writing” Medium. 13 Aug 2020.
Thoraval, Yannick.”Lit therapy in the classroom: writing about trauma can be valuable, if done right” The Conversation” 6 Sep 2020