Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Beginning and cultivating a journaling habit can be valuable to you in recovery and in life. Journaling is easy. In its simplest form, it’s really just talking to yourself, out loud, in writing, on paper. Anyone can do it. Everyone should.

Journaling doesn’t need to be something you make a big deal about. You can approach this habit in a number of ways. You can do it every day at a certain time, or you can do it several times a week when the mood strikes you.

For the best and most effective results, though, it does need to be something you do consistently. By journaling on a regular basis, you can read back over what you have written and watch yourself grow, or identify and remedy negative patterns in your life.

Journaling can be done the old-fashioned way, in an actual journal, or you can do it on your phone in an app or on your computer or laptop. Some people free-write; they just write down whatever comes to mind. Others prefer bullet-journaling and just write down their thoughts in short, incomplete sentences. Some keep a regular diary, in which they chat to themselves or talk to an unnamed, imaginary entity.

No matter how you approach journaling, it is beneficial in both the short and long term.  However, many people shy away from this valuable habit because they can’t figure out how to begin when they sit down to write. Fortunately, through the use of writing prompts, journaling can be made much easier for beginners and even long-term journal writers who get stuck.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of journaling, especially for people in recovery, and to discover some journal prompt resources to help get you writing right away. 

Benefits of Journaling for People in Recovery

Journaling is beneficial for all humans, but it is especially helpful for people working on mental health issues, working through trauma, or working on their recovery.

You might be surprised to learn that there are a wide variety of health benefits behind journaling. Individuals who have been subject to necessary medical procedures have demonstrated more rapid recoveries if they have spent time journaling before and after their hospitalization.  Another study found that people who wrote about traumatic, stressful, or emotional events were less likely to get sick later on.

Mentally and emotionally, the positive benefits are even more clear and obvious.  According to a number of studies, journaling on a regular basis can result in long-term improvements in mood, lower stress levels, and fewer depressive symptoms. It can boost mood immensely by helping the writer to prioritize fears, problems, and concerns, identify negative patterns and symptoms, identify negative thoughts and behaviors, and promote positive self-talk, too.

Furthermore, journaling strengthens emotional function.  In time, as journaling habits build, benefits become long-term and long-lasting.  It can help the brain to better regulate emotions and builds self-confidence.  Some studies even shows that writing from the heart, which journaling really is, can help people to understand themselves, their place in the world, and the best and most constructive ways to react to different situations, people, and challenges.

All of the above will help people in addiction recovery to remain strong during difficult and challenging times.  Although all of the above benefits clearly apply to all people, you can see how each of them can be especially helpful for people walking along the recovery path.  Journaling will help you to learn more about yourself than you ever imagined and will allow you to go even deeper than you go during your deepest individual and group therapy sessions. You can fully let loose and say everything you need to say; when you are done, you can share it with your support circle or keep it to yourself – it’s up to you.

When people in recovery spend time journaling on a regular basis, triggers that may have not previously been clear or even evident may become glaring and obvious.  In your journal, you can talk openly about your everyday challenges and successes and work through the most difficult emotions you face. Since your journal can always be with you, you can take a moment to write in times of great need, and you don’t have to wait until your friend or your therapist is available for you to fully unload your feelings in a healthy manner.

How to Get Started

The fact of the matter is that some people are natural writers and some people are not. The people in the latter group may think of writing as a bore and a tedious chore, but it doesn’t have to be that way. First of all, know that although you should write in your journal as consistently as possible, you certainly do not have to record every event of your day every day. Instead, focus on writing about how you are feeling each day and your successes and concerns.  These are the big, important events in your life, and that’s where most of the focus of your journal entry should lie.

Find a quiet corner and commit to writing for ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. Once you pass that mark, allow yourself to quit for the day – even if you are in the middle of a sentence.  However, if you feel like writing more, do that, too. Write for as long as you like; the fact that you wrote for even a short time is a victory in the beginning.

Soon, once you get into the habit, it’s possible or even likely that ideas will pop into your head throughout the day. Jot these down as they come to you, and when it comes time to sit down to journal for the day, you will have a great starting point ready to go.

But what if that doesn’t happen?  What if every time you sit down to write you are stuck, and you find it impossible to move forward?  Well, that’s where writing prompts can be a big help to you.  There are so many resources for writing prompts online. Some are better than others, but if you search “writing prompts for addiction recovery” in your favorite search engine, you may be amazed at what you find.  Below, we have shared some great ones we found online.  Use these to get started, and you will be writing before you know it. You will soon find that you have so much to say, and by the time you run out of prompts to use, you will be well on your way to a writing habit – and may not need prompts anymore anyway.

Great Writing Prompts for Addiction Recovery

Check out these great resources for journal prompts for people working on their recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Unjukiefied is a recovery blog that has a lot of great resources. This list of 99 one-word journal prompts is a great place to start.

Recovery Warriors offers these five writing exercises to help you get the ball rolling. They include letter writing (which you don’t have to send) and wrting about what you have learned on your recovery journey so far.

This article in Psychology Today suggests four questions to help guide your journaling to help keep you on task and to keep you from getting overwhelmed as someone new to the jounnaling habit.

Psych Central offers these 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery that are not specific to people in recovery from addiction, but which will offer you much inspiration for writing.

These are just a few of the many websites out there that provide journal prompts for people who have difficulty getting started on a writing habit, or for people who are seasoned journal-writers who just want to try something new.  Anytime you get stuck when journaling, check out some prompts online, pick one at random, and dive right in.  You will be amazed how quickly the words come out of your pen (or fingers) when you use a prompt that inspires you.

Happy Journaling

As you can see, journaling has so many benefits to all people – but it is even more beneficial to people in recovery. There is no reason to wait another day before beginning this habit – start right now!  If you can develop a consistent habit, you will soon be amazed at all you learn about yourself by just writing down your thoughts and reviewing them.  Good luck and enjoy!

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