Have you ever considered keeping a journal?
Maybe you like the idea but don’t have time. Maybe you connect journaling with a young person’s diary, describing their latest crushes and drawing little hearts over each and every letter lowercase i. Or maybe you picture some hipster sitting in a coffee bar writing down their latest “insights” into the meaning of life while sipping a latte. The idea that journaling is either silly or pretentious (or both) might be keeping you from putting pen to paper.
But if you can set those thoughts aside, you may discover that journaling can support your mental health, your recovery from a substance use disorder, or both. And there is no need to find a heart-shaped lock for your journal or to haunt a coffee shop to ensure others notice what a serious person you are.
Plenty of Journaling Options for Different Situations
It is important to remember that your journal is yours—and is intended as a tool to support you rather than a chore you must complete. Part of making the process of journaling helpful is finding the right kind of journaling for you and your mental health or recovery needs.
Here are some options.
Gratitude Journals Highlight Thankfulness
Sometimes what we really need is a reminder of all we have to be grateful for. In a gratitude journal, you simply list and reflect on the people and things in your life that cause you to feel thankful. It’s a physical way to count your blessings—one you can always look back on when you are feeling discouraged, anxious, or as if you may succumb to cravings that are threatening your sobriety. As you make entries in your gratitude journal, you may well discover you have more to be thankful for than you have ever realized.
Accountability Journals Help You Stay on Track
You know that you need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, and more to support your mental health and/or recovery. But it can be easy to let some (or even all) of those things slide if you are not intentional about holding yourself accountable. An accountability journal is a place to keep track of your successes in whatever area you choose. Writing those successes down—and seeing how each success sets you up for the next success—can keep you motivated so that you keep doing the things you need to do to boost your mental health and/or move forward on your recovery journey.
Stream of Consciousness Journals Can Be Revealing
Do you have a running commentary in your head? It can be useful to put some of those thoughts down on paper–without judgment–so that you can look for patterns or ideas that you might not even be consciously aware of. With a stream of consciousness journal, you just set aside a little time each day to simply sit and write whatever pops into your head. You don’t worry about whether anything connects to anything else or whether it all makes sense. You just note down what comes to mind. The results might be surprising and revealing—and could potentially provide issues to explore in therapy.
A Traditional Diary Can Be Helpful, Too
Listen, we know we made light of the kind of diary that teenagers keep, but a straightforward diary—in which you simply record what happened over the course of the day and how you felt about it—can support your mental health and/or recovery, too. This sort of journal provides an opportunity for reflection and may help you let go of difficult emotions or ideas. Writing about what went wrong—and what went right—each day can help you process your emotions and keep making progress toward improving your well-being.
Consider an Art Journal if Writing Is Not Right for You
Not everyone is comfortable writing down their thoughts and feelings. Maybe you find it difficult to assign words to what you are experiencing. Maybe writing has always been a source of stress for you dating back to your days in school. Maybe you find that your inner commentary is not really made up of words but of images. If any or all of those things are true, an art journal may be a good fit for you. Drawing, painting, making collages, or even just doodling can be a wonderful way to process emotions in a personal and creative way.
Get Started In Whatever Way Works for You
It might be easy to get caught up in the details of journaling. Are you going to write by hand in a notebook or type entries on your laptop? What’s the best spot in your home for journaling where you won’t be overly distracted? What time of day will work best for you? What if you can’t remember all the punctuation rules?
Once you start asking yourself these questions, it might seem like it would just be easier to give up on the whole project. But the key to success is getting started. If your first approach doesn’t work for you, try something different. Stick with it, and you will find your rhythm and the kind of journaling that works best for you and your goals.
“Today I Got the Help I Needed”
That’s a great first line for a journal entry. If you’re ready to get help for a mental health disorder, a substance use disorder, or both, we’re ready to help at Peak View Behavioral Health.