Did you know that journalling can enhance the so-called “placebo effect”? The placebo effect has been identified in medical science as the perception or experience of improvement, or a recognisable reduction in symptoms, that is independent of the effect of the pharmacological or other medical treatment. It cannot be explained in normal medical terms.
If you are working on recovery from any physical, emotional or psychosomatic symptoms, journalling can help you move forward and consolidate any improvements you can make, alongside any form of treatment or recovery process you are engaged in
Although medical scientists do not as yet understand the healing response known as the placebo effect, they recognise that “mind over matter” exists even though they do not as yet have tools to analyse it.
For years, the placebo effect was regarded as evidence of the failure of a medical treatment, so that if the placebo worked it was understood that meant the treatment itself was ineffective. But what if the placebo itself is actually offering something of value, or something that works in some cases? In some experiments, the placebos themselves enabled some patients to reduce their symptoms or to be discharged from treatment. The minds of these patients stimulated their bodies into increased wellness.
How journalling can help you capture the “placebo” effect
The placebo effect is in fact your mind giving your body instructions to feel better. You can use a journal to achieve this, and make good use of this effect when you are journalling about wellness, recovery, wellbeing, or managing symptoms.
The placebo effect is not just about positive thinking on its own, but on creating a stronger link between mind and body. This is just what you are doing when you write by hand in your journal in a focused way. You can apply the “journalling placebo effect” to areas such as pain management, insomnia, anxiety, or anything that is difficult to treat and manage.
The journalling “pill” (Please Illuminate with Love and Light)
The success of the placebo effect may be linked to focus, including the “rituals of focus” where the treatment happens in a special environment, where special procedures are repeated in a systematic way. There is the special experience of receiving care and attention and having one’s pain treated seriously. Rather than hoping that someone else will offer you this, you can offer this to yourself in a journal. The mind can stimulate the body into increased wellness. For some people, the body will follow instructions that we give it if we are consistent and follow through with supportive action.
So why not set up a wellbeing, or a recovery and wellbeing journal, where you focus on all you can do to enhance your wellbeing, step by step? Whatever condition or state of mind you are in, you can improve your experience of living with it, your attitude to it, and what you tell yourself about it in a dedicated journal. This is you deciding that you are going to give dedicated time and attention to helping yourself feel better, according to what is possible in your situation.
How to set up your wellbeing or recovery journal : five journalling tips
- Set clear intentions for what you want your journal to help you achieve or attain for you. Here are a couple of hypothetical examples:
“The purpose of this journal is to help me be feel more positive about my diagnosis and deal with my symptoms so they do not affect me so much. I want to deal with my anxiety about it, so I do not affect my family with my worries. I’m also going to record my medication and how it affects me”
“This journal is a place for me to come into a more positive relationship with my body, my weight, exercise, and everything to do with my health and wellbeing. I’m going to use it as a hub to give myself the care and attention I need to make positive changes and keep moving forwards.”
- Make a list of your diagnoses, or whatever discomfort, unease or concerns you are experiencing that you would like to improve, and the list of associated symptoms you want to reduce, such as pain, fatigue, insomnia or lethargy, inflammation, low mood or anxiety. Don’t focus too long or hard on the symptoms you are suffering with, but simply document and record them by giving each one a basic description and a rating of how painful, debilitating or exhausting it is, from 0-10. Over weeks and months, you can record how this score changes for each symptom or life area that you want to address. You can also track your use of medication, supplements, exercise or any health regimen – it’s very useful to have all of this in one place. Simply record what helps you feel better, what makes you feel worse, and what stays the same or has no noticeable effect. You can include the observations of other people around you, as well as your own experience. However, be clear that the main focus on the journal is on all the processes involved in feeling better, and not on the problems in themselves.
- Make your journal writing for wellbeing and recovery a special focused ritual. It is important to establish it as a special activity that you engage in at a certain time of day, and repeat it every day if possible. Set up a pleasant writing space, ensure your physical comfort, a hot drink and create a nurturing, positive atmosphere. Choose a journal that you like, that has paper that is nice to write on. The more attention and focus you give your journalling time, the more you are investing in feeling better!
- Focus your attention in your journal writing each day on feeling a little better. Even if this is just a tiny, tiny amount there is always something you can do to feel slightly better. When you don’t feel good, even a 5% improvement makes a big difference. You can be creative in inventing small ways to feel better today, whether they are mental, emotional, physical or making small modifications in your environment or routines. Record the changes that you make and then go back and record the results.
- Utilise your journal to create and build momentum with a feeling of wellbeing, of life going well, of flow, peace, enjoyment and love for yourself. Remember this is about your mind giving your body clear instructions about how you want to feel. If this is difficult, use gratitude and celebration as your way in, by starting each writing session with appreciations of all the good things in your life. You can explore the positive qualities and learning opportunities that your challenges have brought to your life, and an example of this could be taking the time to write about your courage and strength, your determination and how you now really are learning to love and care for yourself, or how much you value your relationships.
All this is a reminder that journalling is not just a pleasant activity to engage in on days when everything is going well, but you can use it to work on the things that really matter.