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How Simple Journaling Can Help Recovery

Are you struggling with your recovery or feeling overwhelmed by your life? Do you find it impossible to sleep because your mind is filled with thoughts going 100 miles an hour? While carving out a moment’s peace may seem challenging, starting a journal can help resolve these issues and lead to more benefits than you can imagine.

According to Dr. James Pennebaker, writing even three or four times – for ten to fifteen minutes each time – will help you heal much faster from trauma. If you are feeling traumatized by your own experience or your child’s drug or alcohol use, take a few minutes and write down your thoughts. It helps to clear the mind chatter that can keep you feeling depressed, anxious, and stressed.

The act of emptying your mind of all the jumbled thoughts and feelings whirling around at breakneck speeds will help to quiet your mind and bring clarity. Developing a regular writing practice will help you achieve goals and make plans. You can gain a new perspective by looking back at previous struggles to remind yourself of how far you have come. When you face your current problems head-on, you gain strength and courage.

Your journal can be honest, candid letters filled with your hopes, as well as everything you are afraid to say out loud. The journal is for your eyes only, of course, and you can ensure that by locking it in a drawer or keeping it at work. Another option is to keep your journal on your computer rather than handwriting it so that you can take advantage of password protection.

Benefits of Journaling

Here’s a short list of the benefits experienced by starting a journal:

  • Journaling encourages healing from the inside out by strengthening your immune system.
  • Research has shown that journaling helps to speed up recovery because it increases self-knowledge and helps to get in touch with emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It is a healthy way to process daily life and to uncover patterns and underlying issues.
  • Developing a regular journaling practice can be more beneficial than therapy, and it is less expensive and accessible to everyone.
  • Journaling helps to reduce the risk of relapse, relieve stress, and increase overall mental health.
  • Over time, reviewing old journals will remind you of all the progress you have made and strengthen your resolve to overcome future challenges.
  • Writing down plans for the future and goals involves your subconscious to help make them a reality.
  • Journaling helps us to get in touch with our intuition, so we experience more “a-ha” moments.
  • Keeping a private journal ensures we can be truly honest with ourselves.  It helps to develop critical thinking skills and improve decision making.

Journaling Styles

There are many different types of journaling, here are some to choose from and try:

  • A Stream of Consciousness: This style is an excellent way to develop a consistent journaling practice. Set a timer for about 20 minutes and begin writing, just let your thoughts pour out onto the paper. Don’t focus on style or structure or give any concern to whether your writing makes sense. It does not need to have correct spelling, punctuation, or grammar. The only goal is to record your thoughts and feelings.
  • Diary: Developing the daily habit of recording events and happenings is beneficial for everyone whether your life is chaotic or stable. Begin by making a list of your activities, over time; it may evolve into exploring your thoughts and feelings. Who knows, your notes may be helpful in the future if you choose to write down your story to benefit your family and others.
  • Gratitude Journal: By focusing on what is positive in your life, even if it is just waking up with a healthy body or enjoying your morning coffee. You can change your outlook and move away from negativity. We all have many blessings even when we feel we are at rock bottom or the end of our rope. The daily ritual of expressing thanks in a journal will help to refocus your energy and ultimately help you to change your life.
  • Personal Development Journaling for Spiritual, Exercise, and Wellness: If you are trying to change an aspect of your life or form healthier habits, targeted writing can help. Writing down your intentions makes them tangible. It sends the message to your subconscious mind that you are focused and ready to make positive changes.
  • Art Journaling: If you don’t enjoy writing there are many other ways to release your emotions and find clarity. For example, choose photos from magazines to make a collage that represents your feelings and thoughts or draw, paint, or create to tap into the power of art therapy. As a bonus, your mind and hands will be busy creating, and negative thoughts and cravings will fade away.

Getting Started

If you have never kept a journal or diary before, you may be intimidated and unsure about how to begin. Step one is to choose a notebook or purchase one of the many types of journals available at bookstores and gift shops. If you are repurposing a notebook, you can add a new cover or decorate it to help create your unique journaling practice.

Next, consider the best time of day to add journaling to your routine. Perhaps you want to set aside time in the evening before bedtime to journal, or maybe you prefer to write first thing in the morning as you have your morning coffee or tea. As with all new habits, finding a consistent time each day or several times a week will increase your success and maximize the benefits for your health and wellbeing.

Now decide how much time you want to devote to each journaling session. Set a timer for five minutes or longer, or set a minimum or maximum page limit. You may want to begin with no rules and just let your writing happen. You can always adjust it over time.

Once you begin journaling, you will be rewarded in ways you cannot imagine. It will improve your self-knowledge and improve your relationships with others. Add journaling to your recovery toolbox; you will be so happy with the results.


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