Practicing self-care is an essential part of a productive and healthy recovery process. While a variety of self-care methods can be implemented into your daily routine to improve your recovery, journaling may be one of the most effective. Journaling gives you an outlet to express yourself and ultimately process your emotions. Understanding the benefits of journaling and the types of journals you can keep is an important first step in forming habits that ultimately benefit you and your recovery.
What Is Journaling?
The social stigma surrounding journaling purports that it’s something that only 12-year-old girls do in their bedrooms at night; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, journaling is a powerful tool for self-expression that can help you get out your emotions, understand your own feelings, and recognize patterns in your thoughts and emotions.
A journal should be a place of freedom where you can write about whatever your heart desires without feeling pressured to censor yourself and without the fear of judgment from a third party. Being able to articulate your thoughts and feelings without feeling the need for censorship is a crucial first step in understanding your emotions and, ultimately, facing them.
Journaling doesn’t just have to be about letting out your stress and anxiety. Documenting your happy thoughts and the positive events that are going on in your life can help you better recognize these positive events and their impact on you. Writing about the wonderful lunch you had with your friend that day is just as crucial as writing about the things that are causing you the most stress. Ultimately, journaling is about writing whatever is important to you, regardless of whether it’s happy, sad, or anywhere in between.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling encourages people to be more open and honest about their emotions and experiences. In doing so, you’re creating a more vulnerable relationship with yourself that builds trust and discourages self-criticism. Just as talk therapy helps patients work through their emotions by getting them to talk about them, keeping a recovery journal also forces you to articulate feelings that often feel very abstract. By turning abstract feelings into concrete sentences, you’re able to better understand how those feelings are affecting you and how you’re engaging with them.
Studies have associated recovery journals with:
- Reduced depression
- Better grief management skills
- Lowered stress and anxiety levels
- Improved immune functions
- Reduced digestive issues.
- Feelings of accomplishment
- Improved emotional awareness
Additionally, journals are typically most effective over long periods of time. While there are certainly many short-term benefits to keeping a journal, one of the most useful aspects of journaling is finding patterns in your thoughts and emotions. By recognizing patterns over longer periods of time, you can better understand how you process your emotions and perhaps implement better ways of doing so.
Types of Recovery Journals
If a picture of a 12-year-old scribbling furiously into a notebook on their floor is the mental image you get when you think of the word “journaling,” you’re not alone. However, there are many different types of journals that can benefit your recovery process and a diary is only one of them. Different journals are typically kept with different goals in mind, and you can feel free to keep multiple at once.
Setting clear goals and expectations is the first step of journaling. The second step is figuring out which journal is best suited for your specific goals.
A diary journal — or just a “diary” — is the most common type of journal. Diaries are typically kept nightly and document prominent events or emotions felt throughout the day. As the writer, you get to choose which events you wish to keep in your diary. The best practice is to choose the emotions and events that stand out the most to you or that you would like to spend some time thinking about.
Reflection journals are a tad more specific than diaries. Reflection journals should also be kept nightly and should document the decisions you made throughout the day, why you made that decision, the outcome, and your satisfaction with your decisions. This can help you become more conscious in your decision-making and better understand what motivates your actions.
A gratitude journal encourages you to look at the positives in your life. Gratitude journals prompt you to write down things you’re grateful for each day and briefly explain why you’re grateful for them. This will help you maintain a positive attitude and appreciate the positive forces in your life.
A health journal encourages you to document your physical and mental health at the end of each day. Health journals are typically more for long-term use and recognizing changes or patterns in your overall health. However, checking in with yourself is always an important practice that can also benefit you in the short term.
These journals are intended to help you create and track goals so that you can actively check your progress. Here, both short and long-term goals should be kept. Short-term goals can include specific tasks you wish to accomplish that day, whereas long-term goals can include changes you would like to see in yourself or in your life. Goal journals help create a sense of accountability to ensure that you’re actively pursuing your goals. Plus, checking off goals will give your brain a surge of dopamine, leaving you feeling accomplished and satisfied.
Journaling Your Recovery
There is no correct way to keep a journal. The most important thing is that you’re creating a space for yourself in which you can freely and safely express yourself and navigate your emotions. Journaling may not be essential to recovery, but it can help you create and monitor goals, recognize patterns in thoughts and actions, and check in with yourself to ensure you’re on the right track.
Social stigmas surrounding journaling deter many people from giving it a shot. However, there are many benefits associated with journaling, especially for those in recovery. Keeping a recovery journal can help you to feel empowered and in control of your emotions. There are a variety of different types of recovery journals that you can keep, each with its own specific function. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we believe in a holistic approach to recovery, which can include forms of self-care such as therapy. Our professionals can help you start your journaling journey and ensure you’re setting yourself up for success. For more information about our services, call (760) 492-6509 today.