Have you heard that many people are in an uproar about the decline of cursive? The thinking goes that if younger people never learn to read and write in cursive, they will not be able to read the treasure trove of historically important documents that were created in cursive. We aren’t ready to take a side in that particular argument. But we are ready to argue that writing—specifically the keeping of a journal—can be a wonderful way to support your sobriety and mental health. And the benefits of keeping a journal are available whether you write in cursive, prefer to print, or knock out your thoughts on a keyboard. In fact, your journal does not have to feature words at all.
Let’s look at some of the kinds of journals that can bolster your efforts to stay sober and to maintain good mental health.
The Journal as a Daily Diary
Spending a few minutes each day reflecting on your experiences and how you reacted to them can be a helpful way to process your emotions and to identify triggers that might have a negative effect on your sobriety or mental health. You need not record every last thing that happened on a given day, of course. But noting key moments that stand out to you can be a helpful way to build a record of what supports your mental health and your efforts to stay sober—and what doesn’t. Over time, you will build up a record of your experience that you can look back on to enjoy good memories and to remind yourself how far you’ve come in your personal journey.
The Journal as Goal Tracker
Having some clear goals—deciding how many 12-Step or other recovery program meetings you will attend each week, for example—can be a powerful way to stay on track in recovery. But it can be mighty easy to set goals and then fail to hold ourselves accountable to work toward them. A journal in which you keep track of your progress can be extremely helpful. The written reminder that you accomplished a goal can give you a boost, while a reminder that you didn’t quite meet your own expectations can provide motivation.
The Journal as Creative Outlet
For some people, a journal is a wonderful way to connect with their creative side. Spending some time each day writing a few lines of poetry (or any other kind of writing you enjoy) or doodling (or even painting or drawing with care) can help you step out of the ongoing demands on your time while you focus on your own creativity. It is important to remember that these experiments in creativity are just for you (though you may develop an artistic practice you want to share with others), so you need not judge what you produce. The act of creating is enough in and of itself to build up your mental health and underpin your sobriety.
The Journal as Gratitude Record
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be hard to remember to take stock of the good things that happen in our lives. We tend to remember to be grateful for big moments in our life—a promotion, an award, a new relationship—but we often forget to note the smaller things that occur each and every day for which we should be thankful. Taking some time each evening to record three things for which you are grateful can be a wonderful way to balance out the stress and challenges each of us must deal with in our day to day lives. Noting a wonderful meal or a quick visit with a friend or hearing your favorite song on the radio can provide a moment of peace and thankfulness. The various things you feel grateful for might surprise you when you spend a few moments reflecting on each day.
For the Record, We Can Help You Address Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, we can help you regain your sobriety—and give you the resources and support you need to start your recovery journey with confidence. We can also address any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be contributing to (or be worsened by) a substance use disorder.
At the Farley Center at Williamsburg Place in Virginia, we offer personalized treatment grounded in experience, expertise, and compassion. We will listen to you intently so that your treatment plan addresses your specific needs.
Our hope for—and commitment to—you is simple. If you were to start your journal today, we would love for the first entry to read: “Today, I decided to get the help I need.”