Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Writing a 'Visual Journal' for Stress Relief and Relaxation

Writing a 'Visual Journal' for Stress Relief and Relaxation

All aboard
Once Oprah started making vision boards, and adopted the concept as one of her favorites, visualization techniques done via collecting pictures really went mainstream. But long before that, the idea went from woman to woman, friend to friend, as a woman in need would use a vision board to construction a clear picture of her life and goals, and share the method with her best friend.
(Saying ‘woman’ here doesn’t mean that men cannot benefit from practicing visualization techniques; it’s just that they aren’t quite so ready to connect with their emotional side in such a forthright and craft-oriented way.)

However, anyone in need of stress relief can benefit, particularly those with CFIDS or FMS, the majority of whom find that stress is directly linked with and is perpetuated by their symptoms in a vicious cycle. I’m explaining Visual Journals, rather than boards for what may or may not be obvious reasons. First off all, vision boards don’t always work for everyone. Some may very much want to try it, but are frustrated by the process of searching for meaningful pictures that are not of themselves (one of the recommended vision-board methods). Some will enjoy the process of destruction (i.e. cutting and extracting clips) and reappropriating materials in a creative way. Others will stress over damaging their beloved glossies. 

Writing a Visual Journal

Anyone who has attempted to keep a diary knows that regular journal writing can be a very calming, cathartic practice. However, some people who try to begin journals soon stop writing.  They stop and start again like someone struggling with smoking relapse prevention, because they are either too busy or can’t think of anything to say as they write.

People usually just write words in a journal, and often aren’t moved by reading their own words over again. Moreover, they very quickly forget what it was they wrote. It’s a fact that people retain learning they obtained visually at a much higher level than that which they obtained via hearing. Therefore, adding visual elements to your journal can not only be enjoyable, but can help to anchor your thoughts to a particular image. Furthermore, the method described below can help to trigger personal exploration.

Writing Your First Entry

For your first attempt, start your journal entry with an old picture of yourself. Maybe one that you didn’t think was so great, but other people really liked. You may or may not decide to stick it into your journal, but what you should do is write 200-300 words about that picture: how old you were, where you were, who took it, why you don’t like it, why other people do… and anything else you can think of.  Instead of opening your journal and saying to yourself, ‘I can’t think of what to write today,’ choose an image to begin with– ask your friends for pictures, use old travel photos, pictures of pets, brochures, check the extra leaflets that are laying in the junk drawer, take a picture with your phone camera, or even draw it yourself (stick figures allowed).  You probably have a box of old pictures somewhere you have no idea what to do with– pick from those, too. Write about what each image reminds you of, why you chose that picture, who else would appreciate that picture and why. Your imagination will lead you on from there, and soon you will be writing away with yourself, as you go from idea to idea. 

Case Study

Darling is a chef in Washington State– yes that’s her real name, Darling (she explains  that her parents were the hippyish, sensitive type). She collects pictures she runs across to write about them later.  She finds that she is a chef exactly for that reason, because the images of food, not to mention their smells and their textures, link her to memories of the past and help her to weave together a feeling of well-being.

Over time, that’s what your Visual Journal can do for you, so it becomes a sort of visual path, anchoring you to memories and personal exploration that you have done.  Even when you think you are too busy or life is too frenetic to sit down and write, taking five to ten minutes while riding on the bus, waiting to pick up your children from school, or even five minutes waiting in line at the post office is enough.

Words of Advice

If you are ever at a loss for image ideas, remember that a recent study from MIT found that people recall images in warm colors or images with faces in them significantly more easily than those of landscapes. When looking for images, choose ones with human faces or warm colors in them, rather than pretty but empty landscapes.

Be patient with yourself, whether you decide to do this or create a vision board.  Maybe your first entry is just, “This is when I felt better than I do now.”  That’s fine.  Just work from that and keep writing.  Eventually, the gates will open, ideas will flow, and the deeper meanings behind the images you are choosing will start to come through.  The important thing is just the practice and weaving together your own personal tapestry of well-being.

This post was written by Rebecca Kay. Thank you Rebecca!

I pray and hope everyone has a pain and fatigue free day.


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