Tips For Journaling in Addiction Recovery

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In 1996, a popular kids’ film, Harriet the Spy, was released. It focused on an 11-year-old girl who observed the world around her and documented her judgments in a journal. When her journal is discovered by her friends, it causes conflict that Harriet must do her best to mitigate. By the end of the movie, it turns out that the overall effect of Harriet’s journaling was healing, character-building, and revelatory. This is the power of journaling. 

What is Journaling, and How Does it Benefit You?

Ideally, journaling isn’t simply recording all of your thoughts. It’s much more than that: a journal can be a place to reflect on painful or formative memories, intense feelings, and how you interpret the world around you–all with the goal of healing. Journaling can help you realize how certain events and belief systems contribute to struggles with anxiety, depression, other mental health and mood disorders, and substance use disorders (SUD). 

The benefits of journaling aren’t always immediate. However, it’s well documented that the act of expressing feelings around trauma and pain via writing can, over time, improve the immune system, aid in relaxation, and strengthen physical and mental health. Regular journaling also decreases anxiety and depression symptoms. The other advantage of journaling is its privacy. No one needs to read your thoughts and feelings unless you decide to share them.  

Whether you struggle with addiction or not, you can benefit from journaling’s numerous advantages. It’s a great activity to recommend to kids of all ages and adults of all personality types and backgrounds. Check out these additional invaluable journaling benefits:

  • Reduced tendency to brood or think obsessively about something or someone
  • Development of self-awareness and objective thinking
  • Sharpened critical and analytical skills 
  • Emotional regulation, as the act of writing calms the brain and heart 
  • Greater ease in articulating emotions in conversation with others

Why Keeping a Recovery Journal is a Great Idea 

The science is clear: studies show that expressive writing and journaling ease the recovery journey by lowering post-traumatic symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also allows those in recovery to better understand the basis of their addiction and how to address the factors that allowed it to flourish. 

Journaling in recovery promotes mental and emotional clarity, awareness of toxic or negative behaviors and thoughts, nervous system regulation, and personal integrity and honesty. It can be seen as a supplement to therapy for individuals in recovery. 

How To Kick Off Your Journaling Journey

Here are some tips for people just starting out in their diary-keeping:

  • Make it a habit. Try to write for at least 10 minutes a day every day. Over time, increase the amount of time you spend writing.
  • Write what comes—serious or silly—and use your journal however you see fit (doodle, write stories or poems, or follow prompts that you might receive in cognitive behavioral therapy).
  • At the end of every week, read what you’ve written in the last 7 days and write a short summary of it. 
  • Feel free to reach out to your therapist or counselor to discuss the themes that may arise in your journaling. 
  • Know that you never have to share or speak about what comes out in your journal. 
  • Combine your journaling with regular physical exercise and good nutrition to boost mental clarity.

Visit St. Gregory Recovery Center in Iowa For Substance Use Treatment Near You

When you visit either of our locations in Bayard and Des Moines, Iowa, we can better equip you with tools and guidance to make your journaling as effective and beneficial to your recovery as possible. Contact us today to learn more.


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