Throughout our lives from the time we are children, we’re often encouraged to journal. From exploring our thoughts to becoming more self-aware to tracking progress toward our goals, journaling offers a myriad of benefits. As it turns out, journaling can also facilitate powerful results as part of the addiction recovery process. Here’s a closer look at how journaling can be a useful tool in substance abuse rehab and beyond.
The Power of Journaling
Research indicates that journaling can lead to improved emotional and physical health with benefits including a stronger immune system, reduced blood pressure, improved lung and liver function, fewer hospitalizations, a better mood and enhanced psychological well-being, and fewer depressive symptoms.
According to Sam Loui MA, LMHC in a Psychology Today piece, the act of reading and writing can also help people learn more about themselves and, in doing so, stay sober longer. “From an addiction treatment perspective, you can’t just stop an activity but must replace it with something healthy and positive,” Loui asserts. Enter journaling.
Loui is far from alone in this belief. Proposes Petros Levounis, MD, who heads up the department of psychiatry at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and also serves as vice chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Addictive Psychiatry, “I think that anything that organizes your life and makes you introspective and also kind of slows down the urgency of a craving for a drug or behavior can be very helpful.”
Getting Over Inhibitions
The sad reality, however, is that many people aren’t comfortable with the writing process and are therefore hesitant to embrace it as a part of the recovery journey. To help them overcome this fear, it’s important to stress that there’s no critiquing or grading involved. “If anything, the goal is to learn to embrace solitude and the inner thoughts that arise since addicts have learned to suppress, hide, or deny their thoughts and feelings,” continues Loui.
It’s also important to remember that journaling uses a different part of the brain than speaking. In writing, says Loui, people are able to tap into deeper emotions and feelings. This can help them make connections that yield new insights into the roots of their addictions. According to Indra Cidambi, M.D., journaling can also help patients avoid relapse.
One caveat, according to Dr. Cidambi? Just as journaling serves a different purpose than speaking, so does speaking serve a different purpose than journaling. “When a person has a lot of issues impacting them, it is easier to address these problems and effectively deal with stress through learned interventions or by calling their therapist or sponsor for help. Interventions could include positive self-talk, applying learned Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, or using mindfulness techniques. However, not all issues can be effectively addressed by ones’ self. I always recommend a person have their therapists’ or sponsor’s number handy to make the call when the stressors are too overwhelming to handle alone,” she explains.
The takeaway? Just as addiction is multi-factored, so is addiction treatment and recovery. When integrated into a comprehensive and cohesive substance abuse treatment plan, journaling can help patients not only better understand themselves, but also make meaningful progress toward their sobriety goals.
Harris House, offering leading addiction treatment in St Louis, provides individual treatment plans for clients incorporating a variety of tools aimed at helping patients overcome the obstacles that bolster addiction and impede recovery. Call us to learn about admissions today.