We had the privilege of being joined by April Stearns on a recent episode of our Facebook Live series, Get Well and Stay Well.
April is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Wildfire Magazine, a digital and print journal of survivorship issues faced by women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
The conversation explored how April uses writing as a tool for healing, self-empowerment, and growth during her journey through breast cancer. We also discussed how you can integrate the practice of journaling into your own life to navigate challenges and learn about yourself.
In case you don’t have time to watch the whole video, here are the key takeaways April shared with us from our interview:
1. Benefits of Journaling
Journaling gave me back a sense of control over an out-of-control situation. When you write everything out, you start to be able to highlight and downplay certain aspects of a situation. In a way, you get to write the ending to your own story, which provides a sense of taking control and making sense of what happened. I think this fills us with a deep sense of wellbeing, calm and peace. Journaling lets us take something out of our minds and put it on the page. This lets our brain know, okay, it’s there if I need to go back and revisit it but we don’t need to keep ruminating on it right now. It’s a way of quieting the mind.
2. Types of Journaling
- Cataloging: Writing down what happened during the day. Cataloging can really highlight that there are good things that happen during a day and bad things that happen during a day. We tend to sometimes only think about and ruminate on the bad things. Keeping a journal can help you see the good things that have come out. I would really encourage anyone journaling to start highlighting the things that happened during the day that they’re grateful for. Your journal can become a gratitude journal as well, which is really powerful.
- Prompt Style: Find little quotes, poems, things that really resonate for you, and then use your journal to reflect on those things and dig into the stories they unearth. A guided practice of going back through other stories that have happened throughout your life. Writing with a prompt can help you uncover memories, thoughts and feelings that you didn’t even know you had.
3. Getting started and creating a journaling habit
You want your journal to become a habit, something you reach for on a daily basis or when things get challenging during the day. It becomes a tool that you use. In order for journaling to become a habit, you have to set it up so it’s easy for your brain to think about and grab. My first tip would definitely be to pick a medium that works for you. A blank journal and a fast pen are the things that make journaling fun for me. You also want to do it every day at the same time.
4. Set a timer to dig into your unconscious
I really recommend that you set a timer while you are journaling. It might start with two or three minutes, or even just one minute and then you can build up from there. The reason I really recommend that is because there’s magic to sitting with a blank page or sitting with your thoughts, sitting with your pen and seeing what wants to come out. Whatever your brain has decided is the right answer or the top-of-mind answer will surface. The stuff that comes later has that power to really start unlocking some deep healing. That’s when you start accessing memories or getting into thoughts you didn’t realize were still kicking around back there and need to come out.
As the highlights above suggest, this was a powerful conversation on using journaling to cultivate self-awareness and access new levels and layers of healing.