The Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

The Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

While it might feel unnatural, journaling through your recovery can be incredibly valuable

There are a variety of different ways and processes an individual can use for journaling, and each has a benefit in the recovery process. It might even be considered the cheapest form of therapy in the context of recovery, though that may be a stretch. Nevertheless, journaling has been shown to lower stress, increase self awareness and be valuable as a mindfulness exercise. Surprisingly, journaling has been potentially tied to a lower relapse rate.

Types of Journaling

Just as there is no single way to approach recovery overall, so there are a variety of ways to journal that can be valuable:

  • In stream of consciousness journaling a person sits down for a specific period of time and writes whatever comes to mind. This works best with some sense of habit in play, so preferably the journaling takes place at the same time each day. Self-editing is not allowed, and you don’t even check for punctuation or spelling. You just write, intentionally processing the day’s events in an unfiltered and cathartic way.
  • Diary journal is an emotional journey that is similar in some ways to stream of consciousness, though less factual. When utilizing the diary journaling method, it is also appropriate if desired to undertake editing and correction of grammar and punctuation. Indeed, this style of journaling is often quite polished and very focused on telling a personal story in a way that makes sense to others.
  • A gratitude journal is a powerful tool for everyone but particularly a person in recovery. Each day, the good things that happen throughout a day are captured in this journal. Creating a record on the positive movement and growth over time allows for changes to be more evident. This also becomes a source of hope during dark times.
  • Spiritual journaling focuses on the spiritual aspects of growth and recovery. A person captures in a journal the growth, realizations, challenges and victories over the course of a period of time. Typically not a daily journal, spiritual journaling can nonetheless become a powerful demonstration of growth over time.

The Benefits of Journaling

There are numerous benefits to journaling during recovery. Included in these are the following:

  • Perhaps the largest benefit of journaling is better self-awareness. The process of journaling forces a person to think more deeply about the events of the day, the progress made during the day and their emotional state. Further, rereading later can underline growth opportunities or victories that were not evident at the time.
  • Cathartic venting is often very valuable as well. A day’s frustrations can hang on you if don’t process them in one way or another, and journaling is a safe way to put all your feelings and disappointment out there, without wounding anyone else. This will at times results in a release of stress.
  • Personal or self-oriented accountability is by default increased. As the individual thinks through various aspects of his day, he will be forced to be honest with himself about the progress of lack of progress he is seeing in key result areas. This can even enhance his motivation to see more change.
  • Writing things down often offers clarity that is not possible apart from the act of writing it down. The value of clarity through the written words can never be underestimated. Emotions often cripple an individual’s ability to objectively assess a given situation.
  • There is power in having a space to be free to explore your hurts, worries and fears without considering judgment. No one person can guarantee an environment free from criticism, but a journal will never think less (or more) of you for whatever you happen to write in it.

Why People Don’t Journal

Journaling is an underused tool for any number of reasons. Some cannot seem to find the time. This is nothing but an excuse. Anyone can find time for a habit if there is value for the habit. Others do not like writing, either because it brings back memories of school or because he is convinced he is a terrible writer. There are two solid responses to this. The first is that nobody will read it, so the quality doesn’t matter. Second, there are other options to avoid the physical chore of actually writing, such as audio recordings, typing or even texting your journal entries.

Journaling Is One Tool in the Toolbox

It can be very easy to begin to believe that you only have one tool in your toolbox, so if journaling does not work, then failure is guaranteed. This is far from the truth, as there are many different ways to approach recovery. Other options include counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), inpatient detox or outpatient rehab. At the end of the day, you have to do what works for you, no matter what it is. You have to choose to live a clean life.

If you feel like your strength is gone, there is support available. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admissions counselors at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about your substance abuse. They can help you find your way.


[1], “Journaling in Recovery,” accessed January 3, 2016