How to Journal Effectively: Journaling can be an important tool to help someone on the road to recovery. Often, a recovering addict needs to apply self-help resources to achieve the growth and healing that is necessary to overcome the addictive behaviours. Looking inward and identifying the patterns and thoughts can be a powerful way to initiate change and shine a light on the problems that need to be addressed.
Starting a journal might seem like a daunting task, especially if you aren’t much of a writer. But, the most important thing that you can do is find a journaling process that works for you.
Why Journaling is Important
Why does it matter if you are recording your thoughts or writing down your ideas? There are many things bouncing around in your mind, which can lead to feelings that are overwhelming and challenging. In a few short minutes, you might be thinking about everything from to-do lists to failures, fears, hopes, and dreams.
As these ideas come and go, it is helpful to learn to recognize the thought patterns so that you can manage the concepts that are allowed to stay. Journaling can be a perfect solution to help you sort through the ideas and make sense of the things that are coming up from one day to the next.
You Don’t Have to Be a Good Writer
Journaling is an activity for YOU. Don’t overthink this process or worry about writing perfect entries. When you start a journal, the goal is to allow the words to flow. The writing won’t be published or even shared with your friends and family. Instead, putting pen to paper gives you a chance to clear your head.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling offers many benefits to help a person:
- Cope with depression
- Manage anxiety
- Reduce stress levels
- Track symptoms
- Recognize triggers
- Prioritize and redefine problems
- Practice positive self-talk
- Identify negative behaviour and thoughts
Keeping a journal can help you see the things that are causing anxiety and stress. This practice is essential for people in recovery since lower anxiety and stress levels make it easier to avoid triggers related to the addiction.
Tips for Starting a Journal
Whether you are starting a journal for the first time or you are recommitting to a regular writing practice, a few simple steps can help with the success of your efforts:
- Set a Schedule: You won’t ever write a journal entry if you wait until you “feel like it” before you start writing. Decide that you are going to keep a journal, then mark it on your calendar so that you complete the task. Pick the days of the week and the time of day that you will write.
- Buy a Journal that You Love: Journal writing can be as simple as picking up a piece of paper to record your thoughts. But, there is something special about organizing your thoughts in one place and having a nice, bound notebook that you love. Go to the office supply store and find a journal or notebook that matches your personality. Also, pick a high-quality pen that feels good to hold in your hand.
- Choose the Right Environment: Writing in a place where you encounter many distractions and interruptions can make it hard to sort through the thoughts that come up. Choose a location where you can concentrate and focus on the writing. Try writing in an office or study room at home, or head to the library if you can’t get away from the distractions in the house.
- Ask Yourself Questions: If you are having a hard time coming up with ideas to write about, then ask yourself questions to prompt the writing. Here are a few ideas to help you get started: What are you feeling today? What activities did you participate in this week? Are you sad about anything? Are you excited about anything?
- Don’t Be Pressured: There are no expectations for the things that are written in your journal. When you are writing, don’t feel pressured to stick with a specific topic or form of writing. Your notebook is your personal space, so you get to choose what goes inside.
Journal writing and other healthy habits are an important part of recovery. Not only can it be therapeutic to write, but you will also find value in reviewing these pages later. This personal history can help you see the progress that has been made over time and the things that you have learned.