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Journaling in Recovery:
A Helpful Aid in Rehabilitation Therapy

Keeping a journal for therapy reasons to aid recovery

In this day and age of ubiquitous connectivity, it is pleasant to find that many adolescents still enjoy keeping a diary. Journaling is a similar yet more focused activity for youths and adults alike, which wields a host of benefits and serves a different purpose from keeping a diary.

In journaling, the idea is not just to jot down the day’s main events, but one’s reactions to them, in an effort to gain better self-awareness, and to identify patterns of thought and emotion that can lead to unproductive or self-destructive actions or states, including drinking excessively, using illicit substances, or even feeling depressed and unable to change important aspects of our lives.

Keep a journal to aid your recovery
By keeping a journal about your thoughts, actions and feeling, you will gain a better
self-wareness and understanding of events that shape your life.

Journaling helps to identify problem

Indeed, journaling is currently used across the globe in many settings in which greater self-awareness can be of aid. These include drug rehabilitation, and therapy for those suffering for everything from anxiety to depression and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therapists often encourage patients to keep a journal to help them see how their thoughts, behaviours and feelings towards events and people, are interrelated.

Journals can help us identify the triggers for anger, anxiety and other emotions, highlighting the type of situations or comments which provoke specific emotions and thoughts. We can use our journal to frame a strategy to deal with these difficult thoughts and emotions in more positive ways.

Benefits of keeping a journal

There are many more benefits to keeping a journal; these include improving our ability to express ourselves, increasing our creativity, helping us organise thoughts and feelings and reducing stress. Indeed, those who keep a journal often look forward to that quiet time during the day when they are alone with their pen and paper (or, indeed, computer), and they can analyse how they reacted to the most important events of the day.

Many people use a journal to set goals; bigger goals can be broken up into chunks and at the end of the day, writers can note down the extent to which they are achieving set targets.

Journals can also help us prioritize our problems and fears, and help us track symptoms of issues like anxiety and depression, on a daily basis.

Put your thoughts on paper
Writing is a focused activity that helps us organize our thoughts, express ourselves better,
relax and focus on the things that matter.

Types of journals

If you are interested in taking up journaling as an aid, try to decide which type of journal will help you the most:

 Diary-style journal

You might keep a diary-style journal, writing down how you felt about situations during the day.

 Evening reflection journal

An evening reflection journal helps you to focus is on ways you could have reacted differently to situations and events.

 Gratitude journal

As the name suggests, in this type of journal you write down the things that you are grateful for.

 Goal-focused journal

This journal helps you to focus on your personal goals and your progress towards achieving them.

Learn to relax with meditation
Meditation and yoga are holistic activities that can further aid rehabilitation and recovery,
in addition to their body and mind healing benefits.

Schedule your journal

It is recommended that you set aside a specific time to write, and stick to a schedule (whether you choose to journal daily, or every other day). Find your favourite nook in your home, one in which neither family nor the television or sound system will interfere with your train of thought. Make this space as special as you can – you may decide to decorate it with lights, or listen to relaxing music.

Try to write for at least half an hour. Throughout the day, use your phone or a small book to jot down events and thoughts you may otherwise forget. Every few weeks, review your journal to note the progress you have made.

Controlled breathing

Journaling is a self-reflective activity that can be aided by other activities that de-stress and put you in a mindful state. These include meditation and yoga, two holistic activities which are powerful stress busters.

Controlled breathing is also ideal before writing. There are a host of free apps for your phone, tablet or computer, which will take you through short but effective breathing sessions. Start off simply then increase the number of seconds that you inhale and exhale. Controlled breathing will rid your mind and body of anxiety and increase our ability to concentrate on what you wish to write down.

Additionally, try to spend time in nature regularly, to relax you and allow your deeper thoughts to emerge. Once in a while, try to write outdoors and avail of the peace and serenity which are unique to the Great Outdoors.

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