Journals & Your Recovery Journey
Diaries: many of us keep them. Others have never entertained the thought of writing in one. But diaries, or journals, can be wonderful tools for working through intimate feelings, relationships, and anything we feel hesitant to speak about out loud. Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, and Courtney Love would agree–they were all prolific journalers, and a quick Google search reveals excerpts of their diaries.
Journals have helped these famous people and countless ‘regular’ folk find clarity and self-awareness. For someone in addiction recovery, a journal can function as a personal exploration of the feelings, events, challenges, and triumphs that characterize sobriety.
So what is journaling exactly?
Journaling uses expressive writing to navigate emotions while simultaneously improving mental health. When we journal, we document in our own messy way our fears, anxieties, contradictory ideas, and imperfections in a private notebook or computer file.
Writing in this way has a multitude of positive mental health outcomes:
- Regulates anxiety & decreases stress
- Regulates moods
- Narrows in on specific problems, fears, and preoccupations that can then be processed with a therapist or counselor
- Pinpoints triggers of substance abuse and anxiety
Does journaling have any proven benefits?
Journaling has been proven to help people recovering from substance abuse disorders gain an upper hand psychologically and emotionally.
In one study that focused on women in recovery, researchers found that women who wrote expressively for roughly 20 minutes every day for several weeks were eventually able to talk through traumatic events without being overwhelmed by negative emotional responses. This ability to detach from negativity and process trauma is just one benefit of journaling.
Benefits of Journaling
Psychology Today writer Sam Louie, in his article “Writing for Addiction Recovery: How Journaling Exercises Increases Sobriety,” lists many physical and mental benefits of journaling:
- Supports the immune system
- Lowers blood pressure
- Aids in liver and lung function
- Seems to reduce the length of hospital stays
- Boosts mood and general sense of well-being
- Lessens many of the symptoms of depression
When all is said and done, journaling is good for everyone. First and foremost, writing in a journal is one of the simplest ways to attempt to understand the world around us, even when it seems too convoluted to work out. Feelings come, morph, and go. Memories age over time and lose definition. Journaling combats the chaos that sometimes takes over our thoughts and emotions; it’s a release.
Not sure what to write about? A Google search offers many journaling prompts and formats to help you get started.
Journaling is one of the easiest, most effective therapeutic steps you can take both within and outside of recovery. And journaling will help you implement two core values: honesty and perseverance.
In your journal, you can be honest. You can write anything, no matter how scary or upsetting it may be. You can think of the page as a private, confessional space that stores your ups and downs without judgment. No one will intrude on this space unless you ask them to. When you look back through your journal, you’ll be able to reflect on your progress and celebrate your perseverance.
Let Us Help You
If you are struggling in your sobriety or looking to find a way out of substance use disorder, St. Gregory Recovery Center can help. We offer evidence-based treatment grounded in spiritual principles that will support your experience in our program and beyond. Contact us today.