Writing Your Way Out of Depression
Among the topics Carlo suggests the group write about are the people who have touched them most in their life, and the peaks and valleys they have experienced throughout their life. The objective, she says, is to give the patients a better sense of where they've been, where they are, and where they're going.
One difference between traditional journaling and Carlo's program is that she has the participants envision that they're in a medieval castle. This transports them to another time and place, allowing them to distance themselves from their life. "It takes them out of the context of everyday chaos," says Carlo.
You don't need a therapist or a group to keep a journal. If you'd like to try it on your own, Gruman suggests one or both of these strategies:
Sit in a comfortable chair, take a deep breath, and start writing. Keep it up for 20 minutes without stopping. See what comes out. "If you are having trouble putting your finger on what's bothering you," says Gruman, "this may help you narrow the field."
Another journaling tip, Gruman says, is to focus a 20-minute writing session on a problem or concern that keeps coming back to your mind over and over. Write down, in detail, what it is about this problem that worries or angers you. Predict three different scenarios for what might happen next. Which one do you like best and why? What role might you play in making each scenario come to pass?
Just remember, says Carlo, that how you write is not important. You're not going to be graded. Jot down phrases, skip the punctuation if you feel like it. "This doesn't have to be perfect," she says. To make the process more pleasing, Carlo suggests buying a journal that you will really enjoy using -- perhaps one with pictures, or one with colored pages -- and using pens or colored pencils that are fun and appealing.
"Just start to write," says Carlo. "Don't expect your writing to be monumental. It's the process that's important."