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9 Powerful Journaling Practices to Strengthen Your Recovery


journallingExperts frequently mention the benefit of journaling in recovery, but this can actually refer to a number of different types of practice. For some people, journaling can be something as simple as just jotting down a list of some of the important things that happened that day. Others might like to write pages and pages on how they are thinking and feeling. There is no right way to journal, but there are things you can do to make sure you get more out of the experience, which is what we are going to be talking about here.

If you have never kept a journal in recovery, you may not see the point of this type of commitment. Maybe you do not like writing, or perhaps you worry about your spelling and grammar? The reality is that if you are not regularly journaling then you will be missing out. Here are some of the potential benefits of the practice:

  • it allows you to reflect on your journey
  • it is a way to vent your frustrations
  • it is an excellent way to track your progress in recovery
  • it encourages you to focus on your goals
  • it keeps you accountable
  • many find that just keeping a journal helps them be more disciplined generally in life
  • it is nice to look back on old entries; it is similar to looking through an old photo album
  • it can help you spot the signs that you are going off track in recovery
  • it is an excellent way to increase your sense of gratitude.

Just jotting down a list of what you did that day would not be enough to allow you to enjoy all of these benefits, but below are some journaling practices that could help you get more out of the activity.

1. Daily Personal Inventory

If you are a member of a 12-step fellowship, you will have almost certainly heard of a personal inventory. This is something you do as part of step four – ‘made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves’ – and you are expected to continue this practice as part of step 10 – ‘continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it’.

You do not have to be a member of a group like Alcoholics Anonymous in order to benefit from doing a daily personal inventory. This powerful practice can work for anyone. It involves thinking back over your day and assessing what you did right and what you did wrong. The idea here is not to beat yourself up but to learn how to improve your behaviour. It may also turn out that you will sometimes recognise that you have behaved badly and that you need to apologise for this.

2. Gratitude List Practice

The most powerful of all the journaling practices is probably keeping a gratitude list. This is where you write down all of the current good things in your life. It is easy to begin taking things for granted in life, but this can mean that you develop a type of scarcity mentality whereby you are always focused on the things you don’t have. The key to your happiness will not be about constantly accumulating more things but really about becoming grateful for what you already have.

Keeping a gratitude list as part of your journaling only needs to take a couple of minutes. You just write down all of the good things that happened that day as well as all the good things in your life generally. If you make this a daily practice then it will almost certainly improve your general level of happiness – the results can be amazing.

3. Journaling to Improve Discipline

It is a well-known phenomenon that journaling makes individuals more accountable. If you have some goal then you are more likely to complete it if you are keeping a journal. If you want to lose weight, a great idea is to begin writing down everything you eat. The mere fact that you are doing this will not only allow you to see the mistakes you make with food, but it also encourages improved choices. Nobody likes to admit that they are making bad choices, even to themselves, so writing things down keeps people on the right track.

4. Using a Journal to Assess Your Current Situation

It is vital that you have a way to assess your current situation in recovery because it is so easy to go off track. You cannot depend on just noticing when this happens because it is so easy to fall into deluded thinking. A journal will allow you to keep an eye on where you are and you will more easily spot the red flags that let you know you have gone off-course.

5. Journaling to Track Your Progress in Recovery

Once you get beyond early recovery, the pace of change tends to slow down significantly. Things are likely to continue improving for you as long as you are doing the right things, but the slow pace of change can mean that you miss these changes. This failure to observe your progress can be problematic as it means you can become demotivated and start to lose faith in recovery. By journaling, you will be able to clearly see how your life is improving over time, which will be a powerful motivator to keep you on track.

6. Use Your Journal to Record Valuable Advice and Observations

If you hear or read something that could improve your life, it is important to write this down as soon as possible otherwise it is too easy to forget. Adding these nuggets to your journal is a great way to approach things, as this information will be where you can find it. If you make any significant observations throughout the day, you can also record these as well.

7. Use Your Journal to Vent Your Frustrations

Negative emotions can do a great deal of harm if they are allowed to just bounce around inside your head. A much better approach is to write down what is happening. It can almost be as effective as sharing your problems to a friend. It is common for people who are overwhelmed by emotions to feel much better after they have vented their frustrations in this way.

8. Journal about Your Goals and Aspirations

Writing your goals and aspirations down in a journal can be the first step you need to take in order to create an effective plan for achieving them. You can also use your journal to monitor your progress towards these goals, as well as keeping you from going off-track on your way to accomplishing them. You could also create a type of ‘bucket list’ in which you write down all the different things you would like to do in your life.

9. Record the Content of Your Dreams

Your dreams can be a way to access your subconscious. The information contained here could warn you of things that you are getting wrong in life, making it possible to identify problems you have been ignoring. The ego often works to protect us from certain information that we do not want to hear, but this information can be vital for our progress in recovery; it is usual for this ‘content’ to become available to you when you are dreaming.

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