Sometimes talking about our days’ darkest and brightest moments is a challenge.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find someone to listen. Sometimes we need some precious alone time. At these moments, there is still potential to sit and productively process our thoughts. That’s where journaling comes in.
What is journaling?
Journals are a collection of our private thoughts, put to paper and ink or typed on a computer. Growing up, you may have called a journal a diary; you may even have hid one under your bed.
Everyone can benefit from regularly writing down their experiences and emotions. Journaling is a way to process the ups and downs of everyday life without any rules, restrictions, or time limits. All you need to start are a pen and notebook.
The simplest way to begin is to write about your day. Pick a quiet, peaceful place – somewhere where you can be alone for more than a few minutes. Grab your supplies – a pen, paper, a keyboard, or even your phone. Ask yourself the following questions and take a moment to answer them:
- What did I do today?
- What were the most challenging parts of my day?
- How did I react to those challenges?
- What did I accomplish today?
- What am I looking forward to tomorrow?
This exercise is a reflection that anyone might find useful, contemplative, and stress-relieving.
If you are recovering from a substance use disorder, there are other questions you can add to this list. Continue reading this post for more details about why and how journaling can be a powerful tool to help you along your road to recovery.
How can journaling help a person with a substance use disorder?
While journaling can have both physical and mental benefits for any person, those dealing with substance use or behavioral disorders have even more to gain from recording their thoughts.
If you’re skeptical, take a look at this article published by the American Psychological Association. Their research indicates a clear connection between journaling and good health. The subtitle is the best summary: “By helping people manage and learn from negative experiences, writing strengthens their immune systems as well as their minds.”
For those individuals with substance use disorders, regular reflection that includes some thought and words about your own recovery can be especially effective. These thoughts can be painful, but the paper (or screen) is a safe space.
There are many ways to keep a journal for recovery. However, the most important thing to consider when writing about your day, about your week—about your challenges and successes—is to think critically. After you write what you did, consider why you might have done it. If you’re recalling a craving from that morning, think about what might have triggered that craving.
It’s this self-analysis that we often overlook that can be so powerful. The more consistently we take those moments to reflect, the better we can start to understand patterns in recovery, both positive and negative. With critical reflection comes a more complete picture of how recovery, the individual, and their environment intersect.
As with all practices for recovery, it is best to speak with a trained professional when possible. Representatives at Willingway are standing by 24/7 for your call.
Additional reading and resources
eHow: Example of Journal Writing Types – This page provides a really helpful outline about a variety of different personal journals. If the ideas discussed in the post above don’t strike a chord with you, perhaps one of the journal types in this article can provide some inspiration.
Psych Central – Known as “the Internet’s largest and oldest independent mental health social network,” this site provides insight on a range of mental health topics. This post on journaling and this post with a solid list of journal prompts offer another take on how to begin and maintain writing practices for recovery.
MyFutureSelf – This neat site provides a simple – and completely free – platform for journaling. Sign up and you will get a private email address where you can send your thoughts. Check into the site to see your emails organized by date, with a word cloud, and search feature. An added bonus is that MyFutureSelf will send you journal prompts for reflecting about your day. It also offers the choice to “email yourself in the future” by archiving certain emails for “your future self.”