5 Reasons Journaling is Great for Addiction Recovery
Journaling is often used in treatment and many people adopt it as a regular part of their recovery plans. There’s good reason for this. Even just writing a few sentences every evening can have many benefits for mental health and wellbeing and even physical health. Here are some of the reasons you should consider making daily journaling part of your recovery plan.
Journaling can help you process difficult emotions.
Several studies have found that writing can be an effective way to process stress and trauma. James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, Austin, has conducted many studies on the effectiveness of expressive writing. In one study, 46 college students were divided into two groups. One group was asked to write about a traumatic life event and the other group was asked to write about some trivial topic. They did this for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. Over the next six months, students who had written about traumatic experiences made fewer visits to the student health center and used pain relievers less frequently than students in the group who wrote about trivial topics. Other experiments have shown similar results.
There may be several reasons why writing helps relieve the stress of traumatic experiences. One is that writing may help organize your thoughts and give meaning to the experiences. Writing may also help you better regulate your emotions by strengthening the connection between the parts of the brain that deal with emotion and the parts that deal with logic. Finally, writing may help you face emotions that you had buried. If you are able to write about a traumatic experience privately, you may find easier to open up to others about it. Although writing about a trauma is an effective way to process it, you typically have to wait a month or two after the trauma for writing to help.
Journaling can make therapy more effective.
Journaling is a useful tool in therapy for a number of reasons. Your therapist may give you writing assignments to help you think about various issues. Journaling is also a good way to help you process what you talked about in therapy. Keeping a therapy journal helps you remember what you talked about during a session and think about those topics more deeply. Our brains need time to process things and you’ll probably think of things after the fact that you wish you had mentioned to your therapist. Journaling can help open those lines of thinking and you can bring what you write about into your next session.
Journaling can increase feelings of gratitude.
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Martin Seligman, among others, advocate the use of a gratitude journal to cultivate feelings of gratitude and happiness. The idea is simple: just write down a few things you’re grateful for. Research shows this is especially effective if you focus on depth over breadth, meaning it’s better to write down why, specifically, you’re grateful for someone or something, rather than just listing as many things as you can think of. It’s also more effective if you do it once a week, since writing about gratitude every day becomes familiar and diminishes the effect. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you focus on the positive things in your life and evoking feelings of gratitude makes you feel happier. This is good for your mood and helps fight feelings of depression and anxiety and it also improves your relationships.
Journaling can help you remember what happened.
We all assume we’ll remember what has happened to us, especially the really good things and the really bad things. However, our memories are much worse than we realize. We forget important details, we conflate events, and we create stories from fragmentary information. Two people can remember the same event very differently. When recovering from addiction, or just living life, for that matter, it helps to remember what actually happened. One way to do that is to write it down. Writing down what happened that day, how you felt, what was difficult, what made you happy, what challenges you overcame, and how you failed can help you learn from your wins and loses and spot patterns in your life. If you do have a slip-up or a relapse, you can look back and see what was going on in your life leading up to it. You don’t have to rely on your selective memory. Even if you never read most of what you’ve written in your journal, just writing it down every day will help you remember.
Journaling can help you make better decisions.
Journaling isn’t just a way to remember what happened; it can also help you think about the present and the future. Joan Didion has said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” Many other writers have expressed a similar idea. What we believe are thoughts and ideas are mostly vague notions and prejudices but we don’t realize that until we try to explain them on paper. Similarly, when we try to think through problems, we often get stuck on a surface level unless we put our thoughts in writing. Writing about a problem gives you a greater sense of objectivity. Often just stating the problem clearly can make the solution obvious. Much of recovery is about making better decisions and avoiding blunders and journaling can be an excellent tool for strengthening those skills.
At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.