Journaling in recovery can be great for you! Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help alleviate stress and can teach you a great deal about yourself. Writing daily is an excellent habit to start, and once you get in the swing of it, the benefits are numerous. Of course, there are many ways to keep a journal or diary, and many writing strategies that can help you to get going. If you don’t see yourself as a writer, you might be surprised at what you can produce!
One way for reluctant or hesitant writers to get a lot of ideas down on paper without much pressure is through stream of consciousness writing. This method of journaling can really best be explained as a “brain dump” of thoughts. There are no rules, and there is no structure. The writer simply writes thoughts down on a page as they come to him or her, and sees what happens. This type of writing can help you get all those rushing thoughts out of your mind, and can help you discover new and interesting things about your thought processes, life experiences, emotions, and actions. If you want to start writing but are not sure how to begin, stream of consciousness journaling is a great place to start!
Benefits of Journaling
Any kind of journaling is beneficial. Writing regularly gives us the opportunity to get our thoughts out on a page without any fear of judgment from others, if we choose not to share, and choosing not to share is just fine. Even when we keep our writing private it can help us to track symptoms, successes, and setbacks, and can aid in prioritizing our goals and problems. Writing can assist in keeping us focused and on the right track in recovery and in life. It can help us to identify self-defeating thoughts or negative self-talk and teach us to avoid these things. Furthermore, for those who are in early recovery, writing can help individuals to deal with triggers. Writing is time consuming and can help you work through cravings or simply fill the tine you used to spend abusing drugs and alcohol with something positive instead.
How to Get Started
To get started with stream of consciousness writing, first dedicate yourself to this practice. Although even writing occasionally can be beneficial, you will see the clearest and most impressive results if you commit to writing regularly. A daily practice would be the best-case scenario, but even a few times a week will do. Schedule and set aside twenty to thirty minutes to write. It may be easier to create this habit if you do it at the same time every day. Many writers recommend journaling first thing in the morning upon waking, or just before you go to sleep at night. Of course, there many be other times you want to write too, once you get going; turning to your journal when you are angry, sad, or frustrated may give you just the release you need to set your mind straight again.
When you are ready to write, find a quiet and private place to write with no distractions. To begin, take some deep breaths, and, if it feels right for you, take a few moments to meditate briefly. During this time, you can try to think of a topic or area of concern about which to write, but don’t worry about this aspect too much. If you can’t come up with a topic, that’s ok too.
Although you may be tempted to type your stream of consciousness writing, most writers recommend doing these exercises by hand. Writing by hand helps to slow you down a bit and will keep you focused. It will also help to engage your subconscious brain, allowing deeper thoughts to end up on the papepr.
Once you start writing, just write down whatever is on your mind. There are no rules and there is no structure. If you want to use sentences, do so, but it is not necessary – phrases and even single words can say so much. Don’t think too much; just let your writing flow. Write associatively, connect images with words, and tie together feelings, memories, and thoughts in whatever way you can. If you are someone who enjoys drawing, feel free to draw as well. You can stay on one topic, or jump from topic to topic throughout the session. When you look back upon your writing later, you may see that you created a chain of ideas that says far more than you expected.
This process should be free, cathartic, and introspective, but if you find that you are having difficulty getting started, just start! If you need to write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until something comes to you, then do it. Some people benefit from setting a timer for a short period of time and committing to not removing pen from paper until the timer goes off. By the time the timer goes off, you might find that you are moving right along and no longer wish to even stop.
Reflecting on Your Writing
Once you are finished writing, read what you wrote aloud to yourself immediately. Even in this immediate revisitation, you may make some discoveries and insights about what you wrote. However, don’t be frustrated if you do not have any major results or breakthroughs right away; often these things take time. Simply continue the practice and make it a habit. Soon, you will begin to learn more about yourself and make some progress. Set aside some time to re-read your journals and reflect upon them. After some time away from your ideas, you may see things you didn’t notice before. A good time to do this is when you complete a notebook. Read the whole thing from beginning to end, and see what you can see.
In general, journal writing is great for you in recovery, but stream of consciousness writing is especially good for you, your mind, and your soul! By putting your thoughts openly and unstructured on paper, you can learn a great deal about yourself and your recovery process, and through this practice, you can become stronger and more resilient as you grow and move forward on your personal recovery journey.
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