They may sneer – but they know it works……

The Guardian Weekly
The Guardian Weekly (Photo credit: noodlepie)

In The Guardian Weekly this week Oliver Burkeman, who writes on the ‘science of happiness’ (his inverted commas), wrote in this week’s This column will change your life  that:

“Keeping a journal sounds cheesy but there is increasing evidence that writing things down can help heal us.”

He cites several academic studies that support this. As many people already know from personal experience, keeping a journal is therapeutic.

If you don’t keep a journal is it because the idea of keeping one is in itself embarrassing, even ‘cheesy’?

If you already keep a journal has it ever seemed to be an embarrassing or inadmissible activity?

I confess that it has taken me a long time to admit the verb ‘to journal’ and all its derivative parts of speech into my idiolect. Burkeman uses journalling (with double L of course) as:

A present participle: ‘you should probably be journalling’

A gerund as noun: ‘you shouldn’t view journalling….’

However he retains the main verb as  ‘to keep or write a journal’ and journal remains a noun.

What vocabulary do you use to describe this activity? Do you use a different term altogether?

Even sardonic and cynical Burkeman admits that keeping a gratitude journal really helps. This is after all one of the most common exercises in the journal repertoire (I believe there are even apps for it).

Journal Prompt – A Gratitude Journal

Every day write down three things for which you are grateful. DSC02799

Just a word, phrase or sentence is enough. They can be anything from the mundane to the sublime – it’s really about paying attention to things that have enhanced your experience in some way.

At the end of the week write a feedback entry in your journal beginning:

When I read my gratitude lists for this week I notice…….


6 thoughts on “They may sneer – but they know it works……”

  1. I had never thought about the journal as ‘cheesy’ but I will confess it was a very long time before I admitted to anyone that I kept a journal. I guess I did feel self-conscious about my writing – worried that people might think I was a little self-absorbed. Now that I have come out of the closet as a writer I enjoy helping people learn how to incorporate writing into their daily lives. I have so many stories how writing helped me that it’s easy to show the benefit to others.


  2. Don’t care if it’s cheesy or not,keeping a journal has all sorts of benefits and keeping a gratitude journal is a great reminder that there is always something to be thankful for even when life gets tough.
    Great post Kate.


    1. Totally agree Caroline and Kate. Gratitude journalling is fruitful. ‘Embrace the cheese’ quote Amy Sundberg. I follow a few blogs, one of them being The Practical Free Spirit: Amy Sundberg. She is aware that some elements of her philosophy are not cool. Cool is over rated – lets be true to ourselves.


  3. I’m a big fan of Oliver Burkeman – and even have his ‘Help’ on my desk as I write – I don’t think he’s cynical but answers possible objections head-on – his columns are pop-psychology but there are proper references in the books. There are cheesy dimensions to journalling just as there are ‘chicken soup’ poems in poetry therapy – but these have a place and can be comforting especially at times of distress.
    I like the term ‘expressive writing’ to cover all kinds of writing with a therapeutic intent – journals, poems, stories, memoir.
    The benefits of expressing gratitude are well-documented – McCullough et al – his theory being that by writing things down you re-experience the pleasure they gave in reality.


    1. Hi Vicky & Heddy

      I also like the term expressive writing. Journal writing is so much more than simply recording events or cathartically freewriting. People at my workshops often remark at the end that they ‘didn’t know there was so much in variety in journal writing – perhaps it is more properly described as expressive writing and the journal is the book…I don’t know – the definitions are expanding all the time. A journal even include poems stories memoir etc.

      What do other people think?


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