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How Can Journaling Help With Recovery?

Recovery from addiction requires a lot of your energy. You must be honest, open, and, at times, vulnerable. Going through the process of freeing yourself from addiction can lead to periods of deep thought and self-discovery. Some of the insights you make might be helpful to remember, and others are best left in the past.

In addition to doing the work of recovery by participating in therapy and support groups, you may want to start keeping a journal during recovery. Many people have found that keeping a written record of their emotions and experiences in recovery can help them keep in touch with themselves and their values as they work through the process.

Benefits of Journaling in Recovery

Research suggests that journaling is an effective way to help navigate the intense feelings that sometimes come up during recovery.[1,2] It is a simple, yet profound way to care for your whole self during your journey to lifelong wellness. Some people choose to write with a physical pen and paper, and others prefer an online app. However you decide to write, keeping a journal can help you to organize and sort through complex, new feelings and move past old memories.

Other benefits of journaling include:

  • Keeping a record of your progress
  • Capturing feelings or memories to talk through later
  • Processing complex ideas or emotions through writing
  • Setting aside time for self-care
  • Using positive coping skills to manage stress
  • Having a consistent way to record easy-to-forget details
  • Having a way to keep track of questions or experiences to bring to therapy

Journaling in recovery is an important way to process and record the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that surface throughout your journey.

Types of Recovery Journals

The kind of journal you keep depends a lot on your personality, goals, and experience with journaling. If you have kept a journal in the past, you may find that the process of writing about your experiences and emotions in recovery feels familiar and comfortable. If you have never kept a journal or written about personal topics, the process may feel strange at first.

There are many ways to keep a journal—and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Experiment with different ways of writing and journaling until you find the one that feels right. Here are some examples of journaling techniques that have worked well for others in recovery.


In this type of journal, you write a very short amount—often, a single line—every day. You could write about a significant event, accomplishment, emotion, or setback that occurred. Or, you may just make a simple record of the day’s events. This is a good choice for people who have never kept a journal before because the writing is intended to be short and simple. 

Health Journal

Health journaling means writing down aspects of your physical and emotional health. You might record the details of a meeting with your medical providers, write about any medications you are taking and their side effects, or write about the way your body is responding to treatments. This can be a great way to recognize the physical changes that are taking place and keep track of important health details between appointments.

Spiritual Journal

You can use a spiritual journal to write about any spiritual insights you have as you journey through recovery. You may make notes of any connections you are noticing, emotions that have come up, or significant dreams that have special meaning to you. The recovery process requires that you search for a deeper understanding of your whole self and can be a time of rich personal and spiritual awareness. Journaling can help you make sense of these profound moments whenever they occur.

Gratitude Journal

At times during recovery, you may struggle to focus on the positive aspects of your journey. A gratitude journal can help you think about the parts of your life and recovery that are going well. Research shows that people feel better when thinking about what they have and what is going well.[3] Keeping a gratitude journal allows you to take time each day to consider what you are thankful for.

Stream of Consciousness Journal

This kind of journaling is popular for people with racing thoughts or who struggle with turning their thoughts off. When journaling in this way, people take time each day to simply write whatever comes to their mind. Some days, they may only write a few pages. On others, they fill pages with their thoughts. There is no structure or goal to this kind of journaling other than to get things out of your mind and onto the page.

Getting Started With Journaling in Recovery

There is no correct way to keep a journal—only the way that works best for you. If you like the feel of writing, you may prefer to put pen to paper. The only things you need are a notebook or empty journal, a pen, and time. There are also many apps available to those who prefer to write online.

Try several methods until you find the one that feels right. The benefits of journaling are numerous, and the effort is surely worth it.

Learn More About Holistic Recovery at the Mandala Healing Center

If you or someone you love need supportive care while you work towards recovery from addiction, please reach out to the staff at the Mandala Healing Center. We offer programs designed to care for your body, mind, and spirit so that you can focus on your recovery. If you are ready to take the first step in your journey, we will walk the rest of the way with you. Please call us today.