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Advancing the Healing Process Through Journaling

Blank opened journal on a deskWhen I was little, I liked the idea of keeping a journal. I couldn’t wait until I knew how to spell enough words to keep one. As soon as I was able to write complete sentences on my own, I used some of my allowance to buy my first journal. It was a floral fabric covered book, full of lined pages just waiting to be filled with all my thoughts and dreams. And, while my entries were sporadic at times, I did manage to keep up a fairly regular flow of entries that continue today.

My journals have taken many forms since that first volume. Some were originally made to be other things, like sketchbooks, others were the simple composition books, like those used in school, that I could customize the cover according to my likes at the time.

One I picked up in Italy. It was a beautiful leather-bound volume of blank pages, the front cover of which showed a stunning hand-rendered image of the Italian seaside. I admit it took me a while to work up the courage to use that one. It was really too gorgeous to write in. But I finally did, and eventually filled all the pages. It now sits on a special shelf with all my other filled journals, looking just at home there as the composition and sketchbooks.

When I go back to that first volume and re-read what my much (much, much) younger self had to say about friends, family, and life in general, I’m both amused and intrigued at how much I actually managed to capture.

Journaling can have many positive benefits. Life is full of very busy days as well as hopes and dreams. Having a place you can jot them all down will help you clear up the clutter in your mind, helping you avoid the oh so common feeling of being overwhelmed from living in our society today.

And, whether you suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, or are working hard to overcome an addiction, keeping a journal can go a long way to helping you work through the tough times. There is even research to show that show what those of us who journal regularly already know.

According to an article by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm titled Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing, the results of these studies prove that journaling can:

  • Increase immune function
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve lung and liver function
  • Reduce time spent in the hospital
  • Improve mood and enhance psychological well-being
  • Reduce symptoms of depression

Essentially, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper will make it much easier for you to work through them.

Getting Started

Journaling is also a good way to improve problem-solving skills, reduce stress, and increase your self-esteem. When you’re faced with addiction recovery, each of these are important to help you stay on track and keep moving forward. Recovering addicts are very often encouraged to journal as a part of their treatment.

But, like a painter staring at a blank canvas or a writer peering at a blank page, it’s difficult sometimes to know how to get started. For many of us, it’s hard to let our feelings come to the surface.

There are no rules, though, and nothing says that each and every entry has to be full of inner speculation and profound self-discovery. In fact, they don’t even have to make sense as long as the process helps you.

Often when I’m “blocked” I start with something simple, like how I felt about yesterday.  It doesn’t matter if yesterday was really busy, or if nothing happened at all. Just take a minute, jot down the basic activities you remember and go from there.

You may be amazed to find how much one idea begins to flow into another. And before you know it, you’ve filled several pages and have begun to express more than you realize.

When this happens, it can be fun to go back later and read the train of thought that took you from eating breakfast yesterday morning, to what your favorite food was when you were 9 years old, to why you don’t like that food anymore, and on, and on, and on.

If yesterday doesn’t interest you, don’t worry, there are a lot more ideas out there.  In a previous article, we gave you 10 Prompts To Help You Start Journaling Through Addiction. These are:

  1. What things made you smile this week/month?
  2. What goals do you want to accomplish this year – in work, hobbies and your social life?
  3. What would you tell your teenage self if you had the chance?
  4. Start with “I couldn’t imagine living without…” and go from there.
  5. If my body could talk, it would say…
  6. What would you try if you knew you would not fail? Why?
  7. What relationships matter the most to you. How can you maintain or improve them?
  8. Write about someone whose life you changed for the better. What can you learn from this experience?
  9. What positive attributes make you unique?
  10. Think of someone you trust and confide in. How can you become like this person for others?

Each prompt on the list is an excellent way to get started on any given day. However, what if you are searching for something more but you’re not sure how to get it?

Perhaps you’re looking for something like greater spirituality or more creativity? There are a number of excellent resources available today that provide different goals for your journaling.

Going Even Further

When I was 15 years old, I was beginning to search for more ways to fulfill the spiritual side of my life. My parents gave me Anne Broyles Journaling: A Spirit Journey.  The goal of this particular book is to help you learn the journaling process while also expanding your spirituality and your closeness to God. In the new revised and expanded 2001 edition, Broyles offers even more “thought-provoking prompts and questions to help enrich your relationship with God through spiritual writing.”

Remember my sketchbook journals? Journaling does not have to be confined merely to words (something I didn’t realize at the age of 5 or I would have started a lot sooner).

In The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself, Dr. Lucia Capacchione does an amazing job of providing prompts and “vibrantly illustrated examples” to help the reader “release feelings, explore dreams, and solve problems creatively”  through writing and drawing.

Perhaps you’d like to take the creative side even further and unlock the hidden talents you thought you’d lost or never even knew you had.  Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity is a wonderful 12-week self-paced course that will take your hidden creativity and let it emerge. While not all of the exercises are specifically designed for journaling, I found them a good way to make entries into my journal and then expand on them when I felt like it.

Even if you don’t plan to be a great artist or writer someday, creating something, even if it’s only words in a journal meant only for your eyes, is a great therapeutic tool that can be continued anywhere and anytime you have a need for it.

Now You’re Ready

Overall, research has shown that journaling appears to be an excellent therapeutic tool in a wide range of settings, for a number of conditions. It can be included as part of more traditional therapies or as a self-help method of dealing with the underlying causes of stress, anxiety, and depression.

At Alpine Recovery Lodge, our nationally acclaimed treatment facility strongly recommends journaling as part of the individualized rehabilitation programs we offer.  Our addiction treatment facility offers a tranquil and serene setting ideal for clearing your head, organizing your thoughts and beginning that important first step toward addiction recovery.

Our staff of licensed therapists and counselors are skilled and compassionate professionals who help each one of our clients uncover the heart of the issue that has kept trapped them in addiction.

To find out more about our treatment programs and how we will tailor one to your needs, contact us at 877-415-4060 or contact our treatment center online.