Journaling is both an art form and a therapeutic tool. It gives you an opportunity to channel your experiences into words. It is possible to struggle with journaling, though.
It does not always come naturally, especially if you are not in touch with your mental state. Neglect, trauma, and chronic stress can stifle emotional awareness. These factors are all driving factors behind substance abuse … and relapse.
If you want to try journaling during sober living but don’t know how to start, this article will provide you with tips and prompts.
Benefits of Journaling During Sober Living
Expressive writing provides many mental benefits. Journaling can offer the following:
- Promote mindfulness
- Decrease intrusive thoughts
- Improve memory recall
- Manage feelings of anxiety and depression
- Track mental illness symptoms
- Help identify fears and barriers to healing
- Provide a space for reflection
- Strengthen emotional intelligence
To get the most out of journaling for mental health, you should remain raw and unfiltered when writing. Authenticity assists you in working through many thoughts and emotions.
You should allow yourself the space to simply exist and feel, no matter how that presents.
Decide on Your Journaling Goals
As established previously, journaling provides many possible benefits. Ask yourself what you hope to gain from journaling. For example, you can start with something as simple as “I want to feel better.” Write it down. From there, you want to elaborate on your initial sentence.
Ideally, your goal will be specific, meaningful, attainable, realistic, and time-limited (SMART). Keep your goal succinct though—one to three sentences at most. Working with the example, you could take many steps to create a SMART goal.
SMART Goals: Specific, Meaningful, Attainable, Realistic, Time Limited
- Specific: If you want specific parameters, you need to define “feel better.” You need to establish a metric. Are you aiming for more positive emotions, lower stress levels, less mental pain, more stability, or something else entirely? As an example, first, consider less emotional distress.
- Meaningful: Next, you should figure out why the result is meaningful. You could say the goal is important because it will help you with acute withdrawal symptoms.
- Attainable: How can you make your goal attainable? Maybe, you can journal about your feelings twice a day.
- Realistic: Would something like a time limit make your goal more realistic? For now, set 10 to 15 minutes per writing period as your objective. This can be re-evaluated and adjusted later, as needed. It is simply a starting point.
- Time Limited: What is the time limit on your goal? You want to experience the desired relief during this stay in sober living.
The breakdown ends with this SMART goal: “To cope with acute withdrawal, I want to decrease emotional distress throughout sober living by journaling about my feelings for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day.”
By creating a journaling SMART goal like the one created in this example, you can compare your progress to your end goal. You can change your goals at any time to better assist with your individual sober living experience.
Five-Minute Free Write
The five-minute free write journaling activity encourages awareness of thoughts. You set a timer for five minutes. Then, you write down anything that comes to your mind. This creates a stream-of-consciousness record. Put everything down in your journal. “I don’t know what to write” or “I am bored” are completely acceptable if that is what you are thinking.
Do not go back and edit during the five minutes. Do not worry about grammar or spelling. Just keep writing until the timer goes off.
This exercise can provide a glimpse into your mental state. If you choose to share it with your counselor, it can help them understand what you are experiencing. (This is completely optional, though. You do not have to let anyone read your journal.)
Emotion and Symptom Tracking
A good way to journal for mental health is to record the major emotions experienced in the day and any event that caused those feelings. Also, record the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms you experienced. You can break down the notes into morning, afternoon, and evening. Rate each of these emotions and symptoms on a scale from one to ten in severity. This provides a more detailed picture of your life during sober living. You can use these to help you advocate for your care in a sober living home.
If you are struggling to stay motivated during a painful withdrawal, gratitude journaling can help you focus on the positives in your life. Each day you’re in your sober living house (or throughout your entire life), write down as many things as possible that you are grateful for.
It can be big things like people or life. It can be small things like getting to eat a food you enjoy or the sun shining through the window. Each of these things can offer you motivation in the most challenging moments.
Get Started Writing
You are ready to start writing, but do you need a prompt? Here are ten prompts to get you started.
- Write a letter to future you.
- What does your ideal life look like?
- “I like these traits in myself…”
- What is your happiest memory?
- Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself.
- Why do you want to change?
- “My parents make me feel…”
- What quote inspires you and why?
- What is your personal definition of strength?
- How do you set boundaries with your loved ones?
If you decide to try journaling, remember that there are no rights or wrongs. You can write about anything that you think and feel. Remember that your journal is for you, and it is one of the tools that can help you as you recover in a sober living home.
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Journaling is one of the best things you can do in recovery – even when you’re participating in a drug rehab or addiction center. It’s a great way to get in touch with yourself and stay centered during a difficult change in life.
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