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The Courage to Heal

“Expressive writing is a powerful method to help people get through difficult times.” Journal writer

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Expressive writing focuses on the writer’s internal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. This writing uses reflective writing, which enables the writer to gain mental and emotional clarity, validate experiences and come to a deeper understanding of him or herself.

It strengthens their immune system as well as their minds, by assisting people to manage and learn from negative experiences. Writing is no stranger to therapy. For years, practitioners have used journals and other writing forms to help people heal from stress and trauma.  As they change negative thinking into positive focused thoughts, their lives change for the better. Journaling can reduce stress by helping one get rid of negative thoughts. They are able to confront and reframe traumatic life experiences, and make positive changes in their personal lives.

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Writing to Heal helps them access and understand their true emotional feelings that they may not be aware of. Most mental health experts recommend journaling as it can improve mood and manage symptoms of depression. Research supports this and suggests journaling is good for mental health. It also may make talk therapy work better. Journaling can be a great stress reducer through organizing thoughts and clearing the mind.

New research suggests that expressive writing may also offer physical benefits to people battling terminal or life-threatening diseases. Studies by psychologists James Pennebaker, Ph.D., the University of Texas—Austin, and Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., Syracuse University—suggest that writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning in patients with such illnesses like HIV/AIDS, asthma, and arthritis.

Researchers are now beginning to understand how and why writing benefits the immune system, and why some people appear to receive more help than others. There is agreement that the key to writing’s effectiveness is in the way people use it to interpret and understand their experiences, and even the words they use. Venting is not enough to relieve stress, and thereby improve health. Smyth says, “To tap into writing’s healing power, people must use it to reflect on and better understand and learn from their emotions.

Health benefits of journaling

A groundbreaking study of writing’s physical effects appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 281, No. 14) In the study led by Smyth, over one hundred asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis patients wrote for 20 minutes on three consecutive days—seventy-one of them wrote about the most stressful event of their lives, and the rest wrote of the emotionally neutral subject of their daily plans. Four months after the writing exercise, seventy patients in the stressful-writing group showed improvement on clinical evaluations compared with thirty-seven of the control patients. Also, those who wrote about stress improved more and deteriorated less, than control groups for both diseases. “So, writing helped patients get better, and kept them from getting worse,” says Smyth.

Pennebaker says, “By writing, you put some structure and organization to those anxious feelings. It helps you to get past them.” His research indicates that suppressing negative, trauma-related thoughts compromises immune functioning and he found that those who write visit the doctor less often.

There is evidence that the nature of a person’s writing is key to its health effects, notes health psychology researcher Susan Lutgendorf, Ph.D., of the University of Iowa. In an intensive journaling study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the results she showed suggests that people who relive upsetting events without focusing on meaning report poorer health than those who derive meaning from the writing. They are far worse than people who write about neutral events, while those who focus on meaning develop greater awareness of the positive aspects of a stressful experience. “You need focused thought as well as emotions,” says Lutgendorf. “An individual need to find meaning in a traumatic memory as well as to feel the related emotions to reap positive benefits from the writing exercise.”

However, Pennebaker says, “People who talk about things over and over in the same ways aren’t getting any better. There has to be growth or change in the way they view their experiences.” In My memoir, Through It All: A Memoir of Grief and Loss, the lessons I learned was the reflections of the good the experience provided.

The language people use is evidence of their changed perspective. I provide a list of lessons I learned by reflecting on my experiences. Pennebaker found the more people use such cause-and-effect words like “because,” “realize” and “understand,” the more they appear to benefit from writing. Writing my memoir was a healing journey. I discovered things about myself and my childhood that I wasn’t consciously aware of.

Pennebaker acknowledges that some personality types respond better to writing than others. Evidence suggests that people who are unable to speak freely benefit most. A host of other individual differences like handling stress, ability to self-regulate, and interpersonal relations—all restore harmony and balance and the effectiveness of writing.

The power of writing to heal lies in the mind of the writer, that’s where practitioners can help clients tap into their healing power. Writing helps them track their progress in their thinking. The benefits of expressing thoughts and feelings on paper can complement traditional therapy.

Therapeutic journaling is any writing or related expressive process used for psychological healing or growth—it can be a beneficial supporting therapy. When integrated into a treatment plan, journaling becomes a dynamic tool for personal growth and healing. Therapeutic journaling and the benefits from its use goes beyond talk therapy.

Heddy Keith, M. Ed is a certified journal writing instructor and retired language arts teacher. She offers Expressive Writing-workshops and classes in the Milwaukee area. Contact her at Heddykeith51@yahoo.com for more information.

What to Know About Exercises for Hypertension

Fitness July 15, 2020 by Mashuk

The right exercises for hypertension do have a very important role in managing and even preventing your high blood pressure.

Hypertension is the result of too much blood trying to flow through the artery walls. The arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to all other organs in the body. When there is too much pressure and flow of blood through the arteries, the walls are simply unable to dilate further to accommodate the increased blood flow.

Your risk of hypertension, generally referred to as high blood pressure, increases with age. However, getting some physical exercise could indeed make a huge improvement.

If your blood pressure is presently high, exercising could assist you to manage it significantly. Not necessarily you would have to actually have to sign up to a fitness center right away. Rather, begin slowly and work more exercises for hypertension into your day-to-day regimen.

Hypertension is said to be the most common cause of heart attack and stroke in the world. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to a variety of other serious medical conditions, including heart disease, kidney failure, and aneurysms. Hypertension is a chronic condition that can be treated.

If you suspect that you have hypertension, it is a good idea to see your doctor for a thorough medical evaluation to know for sure and follow the recommended routine for exercises for hypertension.

Some of the most common exercises for hypertension include: walking and brisk walking. These two exercises will strengthen your heart and lower your blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you should begin walking as soon as possible to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. It is also important to start a daily program of brisk walking.

Walking briskly for thirty minutes each day will help you increase the amount of exercise that you do. Walking can also be a good way to reduce the stress in your life. When you exercise, your blood pressure drops and your heart pumps more blood to the muscles. This also helps to reduce any symptoms of stress or anxiety.

If you are looking for exercises for hypertension, there are many books and other resources online that you can find to help you to learn the benefits of cardiovascular activities. There are also many classes available near you for beginners and experienced people to learn how to perform cardiovascular exercises.

A good book I can recommend to get you started is ” Blood Pressure Down: The 10-Step Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 4 Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs ” authored by Janet Bond Brill. In this book, you will learn how to strengthen your heart and improve your health by managing a hypertension friendly diet and starting a simple regimen of cardiovascular exercises.

Some of the cardiovascular exercises for hypertension you can do include walking, swimming, climbing stairs, etc. You can also take a brisk walk through the park or take your children to a playground to engage in some of the same activities. Another good way to increase your physical activity is to join a walking group. This way, you can also enjoy the company of other people and do some of the exercises together.

To keep your blood pressure low, you need to keep working out regularly. It takes about 1 to 3 months of consistent workout to have any noticeable effect on your blood pressure. The benefits would last only as long as you carry on your workout routine.2

Any physical activities that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered to be best for hypertension. Such activities include but not limited to are:

  • Variety of household chores, i.e. raking leaves, mowing the lawn, gardening, etc.
  • Any active sports, i.e. basketball, tennis, etc.
  • Climbing stairs
  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Dancing

Exercises for hypertension are great for your heart and your overall health. It is important to make sure that you include these basic activities in your daily routine and that you also have regular checkups with your doctor.

The first thing you should do is to know how high of blood pressure you are dealing with before starting to plan out your exercises for hypertension. Depending on the severity of the situation, your doctor could also prescribe certain medications to help lower it, in addition to the suggested exercises. Here is a natural alternative for hypertension and inflammation.

To find out the blood pressure levels you normally have, you can ask your doctor or any other relevant health professional who may work in the hospital or your local clinic. To start a workout regimen, you will need to get your blood pressure measured. You will be asked to sit down and relax. A meter will measure the pressure in your blood that tells the doctor how much your arteries are stretched.

Importantly, when starting on an exercise routine, you must ease into it depending on your regular blood pressure levels. Remember to start off slowly and also to end the exercises slowly to make sure to give your heart a chance to calm down.

The exercises you need to do in your routine might be of many types. Starting with lighter exercises is always recommended because you can increase the intensity while tracking the progress you are making.

One of the things you can do to get warmed up is to do some light cardio. Once you have warmed up, you can now begin to do the different exercises in your routine which are going to help lower your blood pressure.

To get the best results you will want to map out your various exercises into specific intervals. This means you would do one exercise for five minutes and then continue on by doing the next one and so on. Doing your exercises this way will help to make your heart stronger and prepare your body for the regular hard work.

The reason that exercises for hypertension are so effective is because they are designed to strengthen your heart. Your heart is the one that pumps blood throughout your body and if it is not strong enough, your whole body will be affected.

Yet; it can trigger a sudden yet brief increase in blood pressure during the course of a workout. This boost can be significant, depending upon how much weight you may lift. This must be done under strict consultation with your doctor.

Stop exercising and seek immediate medical care if you experience any warning signs during any of your exercises for hypertension, including, but not limited to:

  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Chest, neck, jaw or arm pain or tightness
  • Irregular heartbeat

Also, if you sit for more than a few hours a day, make an effort to lower the period of time you do spend sitting down. Research study has actually discovered that excessive inactive time can add to lots of health conditions, which could have been avoidable otherwise. Try to go for 5 to 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise, i.e. getting up to get a drink of water or going on a quick walk every hour.

If you presently do have hypertension, using some monitoring equipment at home could allow you to understand whether your fitness activities are indeed helping to lower your high blood pressure, and might make it so that you do not really need to visit your doctor to have your high blood pressure measured as frequently.

However, tracking your high blood pressure at home isn’t a replacement for the trips to your doctor by any means, and also keep in mind that the tracking machines used at home might have certain limitations over the more professional laboratory equipment.

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