The Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

The Benefits of Journaling in RecoveryWhen people think about “journaling,” they may think of writing down the events that happened during the day. While journaling can be that act alone, it can also be much more, and much more beneficial. If people who are recovering from addiction or mental health problems keep daily journals, then they can express themselves and release their emotions in such a way that invites reflection and contemplation. This habit can serve as a form of therapy, because it can help patients cope with daily life, reduce stress and increase self-awareness.

Journaling can come in many forms other than simply writing down words in a notebook. For instance, it can be an opportunity to express themselves in unique ways. People who get more out of creative and picturesque expressions can keep an art journal to address their feelings. This notebook could be a mix of drawings and words or just even photographs. People express themselves in different ways, so do what seems right to you. Other people may benefit more from simply writing down their thoughts and feelings on a daily basis and then reflecting on those entries at a later time.

Also, gratitude journals are unique ways to record people or experiences for which you are thankful. The act of expressing gratitude can be especially beneficial for recovering addicts, as it encourages them to find something every day to be thankful for in the midst of recovery. Furthermore, an exercise journal can benefit people who want to keep track of their health, and it can include what you accomplished during the day. You could even use the time to set fitness goals for the next day.

The type of journal that you keep is not as important as making a daily effort to write. The journal can also include creative writing, fictional stories and poetry mixed with personal thoughts, feelings and reflections. For a recovering addict, a journal could help her reflect on who she has been and who she is now. These journals can allow recovering addicts to grieve pain their pasts, to celebrate their present accomplishments and to look forward to future goals in recovery. In fact, journals can benefit recovering addicts in the following ways:

  • Cope with trauma
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Overcome negative emotions
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Problems solving
  • Improve mental and physical health
  • Improve overall behavior
  • Increase memory retention
  • Improve social interactions
  • Increase self-care

Recovering addicts could write about the daily struggles of addiction recovery (such as drug cravings and triggers) to overcome them and to find that the burden becomes lighter. You could also write about interpersonal relationships and how to improve them, which can result in better relationships with other people1.

The American Psychological Association states that daily journaling can improve overall health by reducing stress and anxiety. When someone experiences less stress and anxiety, then he allows his mind and body to operate more efficiently, which creates better long-term health benefits. In fact, the Royal College of Psychiatrists explains that journaling is linked to more positive social outcomes, improved performance at work and school along with better memory retention and healthier interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, journaling can benefit recovering addicts by helping them to come to terms with the past and letting go of the problems that keep them from moving forward. Lastly, keeping a daily record of life can help recovering addicts keep track of their recovery progress: by writing everything down, they can see how they have improved over time and where they still need help to stay sober for the long haul2.

In addition to journaling, recovering addicts could examine their past entries from start to finish to gain a number of benefits. This act is a great tool of self-reflection, and it can enable a recovering addict to continue with her recovery efforts. As journaling is a personal practice that does not need to be shown to anyone else, you do not have to worry about spelling or grammar, so you can write freely, without reserve, to ease any emotion you feel. In response, recovering addicts can examine their journals to see how many problems they have overcome, which can encourage them to overcome problems in the future.

Starting a new journal is easy and can be done with only a computer. It is important to note that journaling takes intentionality, as you may neglect this task if you do not create time for it. You do not have to complete this task every single day, but setting aside 20 minutes every other day in a quiet, private place will help you get the most out of journaling.

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1 Elements Behavioral Health, “How Does Journaling Help Addiction Recovery?”,, (Cited January 3, 2016).

2 Overdose Drug Alcohol, “4 Reasons You Should Keep A Record of Your Life in Recovery,”,, (Cited January 3, 2016).