November 27, 2012

How journaling can be a powerful tool for your recovery

Writing can motivate and inspire, encourage and comfort. Time to get started.

By Christin Sander

Journaling is an easy, inexpensive, personal and private way to communicate honestly, explore your feelings and track your progress. It can motivate and inspire, encourage and comfort. Words are the expression of thoughts and emotions that can be harnessed and used as powerful healers on the life-long journey of recovery.

For those in a Twelve Step program, journaling provides a safe place to explore the steps that involve taking a moral inventory and accepting accountability. It allows you to account for those who were harmed by your actions and begin the process of making amends.

Writing to healA journal can also be used as a place to set and track goals, not only for recovery but also for many areas of your life. What better way to celebrate recovery and a fresh start than by creating a new life plan with a tool to help you set and reach positive goals?

Here are some of the many tools journaling can provide.


Expression is essential to recovery, but so is learning to sort through the array of thoughts and feelings that accompany that journey. For many in recovery, learning to master emotions is challenging. When you take the time to express what is going on within yourself, you can view what you have written, reflect on it and then begin to understand and process.


Journaling offers the freedom to communicate without filters—there are no wrong answers. Journals can include drawings, collages, collections of quotes and other meaningful methods of expression. There are numerous ways to discover your authentic self. Be creative, and most important, be you.

Insight + clarity

Over time, developing an honest account of feelings, thoughts and actions will reveal a great deal about your true motivations. As patterns begin to emerge, you will see what works for you and what does not. At a glance, you’ll identify what gives you strength and see the challenges that set you back. This knowledge empowers your future choices and gives you the wisdom and motivation to explore, grow and try new things.


A key to self-discovery and healing is learning to be mindful of seemingly random thoughts and feelings. When we learn to be conscious of where our thoughts go, we can learn to understand them better and ultimately learn to turn them around in constructive ways.

Many people go through life completely unaware of their true thoughts and feelings and the power behind them. Thoughts and feelings become beliefs—the strong forces that shape how we perceive our reality. Learning to consciously direct thoughts and feelings in positive ways transforms our world and enriches us. In this manner, journaling can provide a way to constructively deal with the destructive forces of depression, anger and fear by reversing them and turning them into a positive.


To get the most out of journaling, it is important to communicate in ways that are completely raw and unfiltered. Journals are private, so avoid writing for an audience. Express true feelings and thoughts, and don't sugarcoat them. Allow this to be a place of complete and total honesty—no one will see it but you, so communicate without restriction. Honesty is the most important part of journaling. Without it, the capacity for healing is greatly diminished.

A View of Progress

A journal is a great way to keep track of victories, even the seemingly small ones. Over time, viewing your progress and growth will inspire and encourage you. On days when the recovery process is particularly challenging, looking back at your achievements can help prevent relapses and restore your self-confidence and initiative.

Be Brave

Looking at ourselves candidly requires courage—and journaling about our weaknesses as well as our strengths allows us to see ourselves as we are so that we can make more empowered choices. Journaling is a way to take accountability for the things that cause you to hold yourself back. Learning to love and accept yourself means facing all aspects of your being with complete honesty. A journal provides a positive place to express, face and then release the most difficult parts of the past.

Writing for as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day is all it takes to progress on the path of healing. Taking this time regularly is important because it reinforces that your healing and recovery is a top priority. Over time, you will recognize how much value those daily moments hold.


It's time to get to know ourselves, even if we don't want to

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