Thursday, December 26, 2013

Journaling for the Health of It ~ a Review

Happy Day-After-Christmas, dear readers. This is the day I refer to as “eliminate the piles” day. Time to take all those little piles of presents I shoved under the bed and in closets and actually find a place for everything.

I’m going to be honest here, I’ve never had a successful “eliminate the piles day.” My gifts normally chill in a corner until February, after my January birthday and wedding anniversary have passed. I’m a “carry it over and eliminate doing the same work twice” kind of procrastinator.

This year’s going to be different. This year I’m going to succeed. This year I’m not going to procrastinate.


I had to share something with you. A challenge I’ve been invited to participate in. 

Something that couldn’t of come at a better time.

You see, just a few days ago, four days before Christmas, I was a hot mess. I work up early on the 21st and felt like I’d just drank a handle of tequila and chased it with salad dressing. Sound horrific? So was I. I was bedridden, could barely move, and the strangest thing of all? No fever. None. I hadn’t felt so sick in years, yet I knew I wasn’t battling a bacterial or viral infection. No fever = nothing for the white blood cells to attack. So what was wrong with me?

Those bored fabulous enough to read my other posts might’ve caught on to my consistent casual mention of the word “stress”….I’ve had a few long nights….been snapping at my little fam…pigging out on crap food at work…. skipping dinner later because of said crap food…..I’ve not been good to my body. Pretty awful, in fact….which make it hard to deal with stress…..and even harder to write.

I love writing.

So imagine my joy when I learn about the opportunity to join a challenge centered on stress relief and …you guessed it….writing.

The Claim: Significantly increase health and happiness in 27 days… journaling.

The Requirements: Full, dedicated commitment to 27 consecutive days of journaling ~ challenge is to complete the short exercises outlined in the workbook, Journaling for the Health of It.

I was given a free copy of the workbook and in exchange, agreed to review the workbook’s content right here, in this post, for each of you to read. What follows is a detailed, personal critique of the workbook from start to finish.

Let me begin by saying I was not paid for this review nor was I given any guidance on what I should or should not say. I approached the workbook from a value standpoint…. meaning, if I’d not been given the workbook, would it be worth its purchase price? I’m a total cheapskate. If the book doesn’t bring anything new, insightful, or creative to my world, I’m not spending a dime.

So without further ado, here’s Jen’s Review of Journaling for the Health of It, written by Mari L. McCarthy:

I’ve read quite a few self-help books in my day. From military deployments to child-rearing, weight control to marriage, I’ve a plethora of “I’m at the end of my rope, someone give me a book” resources on my bookshelf. Almost every resource begins with the reasons “why” you should read, follow the program, and essentially trust in the information you’re about to absorb. The introduction or preface is normally the persuasive portion of the resource…intended to draw you in, link you to the author, make you feel connected to the material, and eager to keep reading.

For me, this portion of the book needs to tell me something I don’t already know. It needs to be applicable to me, my life, and not be the same old tired-and-true information I read about all the time on Yahoo. Don’t start off by telling me I need more sleep, a healthier diet, and more “relaxation time,” for example. I get that part. I need a little more to get me excited.

Mari doesn’t begin this workbook with a ton of cliché statistics aimed at roping you into generalized content and less-than creative journaling mechanisms. She subtly mentions a few scientifically-supported benefits, such as strengthened immune system and decreased symptoms from health conditions, but then gets to the real substance behind the content: she’s living proof.

The author doesn’t sell her workbook from the seat of someone battling with Multiple Sclerosis. She discusses her illness briefly, lightly, in four short paragraphs of the introduction. I like this. One of my biggest pet peeves, from the perspective of one who is not suffering from chronic illness, is when someone tries to sell an idea solely on their illness-specific principles. I think it’s incredible to share success stories, but also easy to fracture your market by exemplifying applicability to only a few, select people sharing the same illness. Mari absolutely keeps me engaged while sharing her story. She shows how journaling has helped her life without segregating me into a pool of not-nearly-as-needy “healthy” people. She maintains the perspective of one who has needed help and successfully received it. Anyone can relate and want the same outcome.

Program Prep and Planning:
After successfully convincing me that I have everything to gain by trying, Mari explains exactly what you need to do to get there. In her mind, it’s not a matter of attempting the exercises. Like many other self-improvement initiatives, you can’t half-arse your way through the workbook and expect results. It takes a solid commitment and the author makes that clear from the start.

I have to admit this part is a bit intimidating for me. About 86% of my stress can be attributed to lack of time. When I take time to do one thing, I need to take from something else. When I want to exercise, I need to give up doing work, spending time with the kids, or taking care of some household stuff…so 27 days straight of making time to write in a journal? Tough commitment to make. That being said, I did just upchuck my guts for an entire 24 hours straight and miss a critically-important pre-holiday planning day because of my poor dedication to self and health. A challenge, yes. Impossible? I’m one of those people who feel nothing is impossible. If you want something bad enough you will get it, period.

Aside from time, the only other items you need for this challenge are a quiet place to write, a notebook, and a pen. Mari suggests you purchase a new notebook and pen, solely for the purpose of journaling. I love getting new stuff, especially stuff to write with, so this is a score for me. A sweet new notebook, even a $1 bin bargain notebook, is fresh, clean, and a sort of physical representation of a pure beginning. Same with the pen.

But the quiet place to write? I live in a two bedroom home shared with three and a half people and two animals (not counting the mice). I do not have a “quiet” place to write, at least not during the day. What this means is I will again need to prioritize my time…..I’ll need to carve out time from an even less-extensive group of minutes, the after-the-kids-go-to-sleep-and-the-husband-is-occupied minutes. If these minutes were an animal they would be the elusive rainbow unicorn, in all of it’s mystical, magical beauty. This unicorn doesn’t always come to visit but when it does, I’m so in awe I often just sit there and stare, catatonic, wondering what I should be doing instead of staring at this precious, delicate creature who at any moment, will jump right out of front room window and race off into the night, maybe never to return, ever.

Like the author said, it takes commitment. Something will need to be put on the back burner. Cringe!

But wait….is there hope for a time-constricted, journal-loving wannabe?

As my concerns about time commitment mounted, I decided to flip through the workbook and really check out what would be required each day. Are we talking an hour-long session with dimmed lights, candles, and flowers? Would five minutes a night suffice?

The answer to my (and most likely your) questions is simple: I decide how much to write.
The exercises do not have time minimums or limits. You can write as little or as much as you’d like. Matter of fact, Mari often peppers her prompts with open-ended statements, telling readers to write until they want to stop writing. It’s refreshing.

She inspires you to work…day by day, leading you into learning more and more about yourself. She maintains a clear connection to the pen and teaches readers how to associate the pen with freedom, openness, a valve with which to drain the stresses of the day, the week, the years. Each day is different and explores another layer of expression through the written word. She explains how to take the lessons learned through journaling and incorporate them into life skills and coping tools to use throughout the day. You’ll face elements of your physical health, like sleep, eating, and dreams, and mental health, such as fears, setting goals, self-esteem, and guilt. Mari keeps it very interesting, flowing from theme to theme in a gentle, calming manner. I haven’t completed the exercises yet, but after reading them through just once, I am excited to begin.

Another one of my favorite aspects of the workbook is the layout. Each page is easy to read, easy to print, and nice to look at. She includes sidebar spaces beautifully adorned with suggestions, quotes, and resources. Each day begins with short narrative to introduce the day’s exercise, followed by the exercise itself, broken down into numerical steps. Never once did I feel overwhelmed…a rare reaction from me!

Bottom Line:
The price of the electronic workbook is $18.97. I am a broke mother of two. This is a bit of an investment for me, especially since I’d need to pay for the book and then print it myself if I wanted something on paper. She does have a 20% discount going on right now, which drops the price down a few dollars. But almost $20 for an electronic copy of a workbook…..? How can I justify it?

I’ll tell you how.

I would’ve paid double that to feel better a few days ago.

I have paid much, much more for anxiety and sleep aids.

Heck I’ve paid more for a cheap meal from Portillo’s.

This is me we’re talking about here. This is an investment in me. In my strength, my health, and my life. Worst case scenario, the journaling doesn’t stick and I am out another drive-thru dinner. Best case, the journaling changes my nightly routine and allows me to finally make consistent time for myself. No guilt. No pressure. Just me. That idea alone  -  the idea of that kind of freedom  -  makes me blessedly happy. That’s the kind of happiness that’s worthy of six-digit price tags.

Luckily, Mari offers an option for only two J

I invite you to commit to the 27-day challenge with me. It begins on January 1st. For details and to sign up, click here:

One final note, this one for the author:

Thank you for devoting yourself to a resource and mission as important and pure as this one. Helping people find their voice is an incredible, rewarding experience and I can feel your passion in every page. I look forward to joining you in January and until then, like you always say, writeON! J


  1. What an amazing challenge. I am with you. Ordering the book right now. I already made 2014 the year of me. So this is the perfect addition.

    Thank you for your wonderful posts every week it is my highlight. Hopefully you get your unicorn more often.

    1. Sounds awesome!! So glad you are doing it, too! I am pretty pumped....I've tried journaling before, but tended to put it on the back burner for various reasons. This is a commitment ~ and I'm pretty good at holding on to those when I think they will affect other people. Let's hope I can learn to commit to myself!

  2. Journaling is so healthy. I hope that it is helping you get to healthy. #SITS