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  • Writer's pictureSteve Watts

Acceptance, tolerance and gratitude - the power of journaling

'Because of my journal I have experienced three consecutive happy days.'

Sunderland Recovery College course participant

The benefits of journaling for wellbeing are well known. Researchers have published widely in academic and medical journals, whilst popular magazines regularly feature articles about journaling ( With the benefits being so widely recognised and the outcomes so positive Sunderland Recovery College commissioned a 6 week journaling for wellbeing course this January (2022). At the half way point of the course the College students have already begun to notice the benefits of journaling.

Following the first session of the course in January course members were asked to keep a daily five minute journal. This included a section identifying up to three things they felt grateful for, as well as an affirmation statement. These could be written as bullet points or short statements as a way of addressing the popular image of a journal needing to be pages and pages of handwritten thoughts and reflections. A five minute journal is an effective way to engage novices who are starting their first journals.

From the outset the students found thinking of up to three things to be grateful for difficult and this element needed to be scaffolded by me in the sessions. A five minute thought-shower helped generate ideas, such as being grateful for the first morning cuppa, being able to walk to the newsagents to collect a newspaper or weekly magazine, or the opportunity to volunteer at the College and help people.

Even more challenging was thinking of an affirmation and this element needed to be modelled by me each week. At their own admission the students found it difficult to think positively about themselves. An affirmation, for example, might involve acknowledging that you are a good neighbour because you help with the shopping or you are good at baking and making cakes for the College's coffee mornings and so on.

One of the course members commented that having started journaling they have now experienced three consecutive happy days. Another course member said that they had noticed that they had become more patient and tolerant. These personal testimonies reflect what the research already indicates are some of the benefits of journaling. One of the course members went on to confirm that they felt a greater sense of acceptance and feeling more grateful for what they had. Another course member commented that they felt a sense of relief at being able to view their circumstances in a more positive light. A course member had written their journal entries as letters to her mother, who had recently passed away, and in doing so had felt closer to her.

These are statements based on only three weeks of trying out writing a five minute journal. To be able to feel the benefits so quickly has encouraged the course members to expand their journal writing by purchasing journals so they can go beyond the five minutes that they initially started with. It is clear that the course participants are enthusiastic, they comment that the sixty minute weekly session flies by and that they are not only looking forward to the next week's session, but also the possibility of a follow-on course after Easter! It is also interesting to note that the course members did not know each other before joining the course, but as each week goes by feel more and more comfortable about sharing their experiences.

As the course unfolds I hope to bring further updates on the benefits of journaling for wellbeing.

'Starting the journaling course with Steve has left me feeling more patient and tolerant and grateful for my increasing acceptance of my circumstances.'

Sunderland Recovery College course participant

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