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Dear Diary: How the Childhood Ritual of Keeping a Journal Can Help Adults

When we were teenagers, many of us had secret journals that we kept under our beds. In these journals, we would chronicle our thoughts and feelings for the day. We would write about who we talked to, what they said to us, how we felt about it, and of course, who caught our eye romantically.

These journals were our life jackets in many ways. They were how we kept ourselves afloat and how we were able to cope with our classic teenage emotions. They were our sources of comfort and a place for us to speak our minds and share our thoughts without being judged or ridiculed.

As we became adults, we probably stopped writing in those journals, letting them collect dust underneath our beds in our childhood rooms. We moved on to college, careers, and more, while our journals stayed behind. These journals were our way to make sense of the world, and as we got older, the world got clearer. We didn’t need them anymore.

Then substance abuse came into our lives, and suddenly that world stopped making sense. We were thrown into shadows and darkness, unable to find our way out and feeling afraid of things that once brought us comfort. We feel stuck in our own head, unable to make sense of the things around us – and that puts us in a spiral, looking for ways to bring us back out to the light. A journal could be just that thing.

The Mental and Physical Benefits of Journaling

We may think that putting our thoughts into words is something that belongs in the past – back when we were young and didn’t know how or what to feel – but it can still be powerful for us today, as adults. The benefits of writing never lose their power, no matter our age. It can be a terrific outlet as you journey through coping with substance abuse and early recovery.

Keeping a journal can help you manage your anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression. Just like when you were young, simply putting your emotions into words on a page can help you get a better grasp on them. You can list things out as they come to you, to help categorize and organize the chaos that you feel inside of yourself.

Journaling can help you prioritize problems and fears, keep track of the symptoms you are experiencing, and provide you with a place to practice positive self-talk and self-love. They can also help you identify any negative behaviors that may exist, so you better understand the things you need to change.

This sense of understanding who you are and what makes you tick can be a significant step towards recovery. The benefits of journaling go beyond the mind to the body as well. Studies show that documenting thoughts or feelings in writing has excellent benefits for our physical health.

Not only does this sort of writing make you less likely to get sick, but it also increases your chances of fighting diseases like asthma, AIDS, and cancer. Of course, journaling is something that should be done in combination with other tools and resources. Combine it with meditation, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, treat yourself to plenty of sleep at night, and engage in healthy discourse with others.

Make Journaling Part of Your Day

There are many ways to make journaling easy and accessible throughout your day. Try to write every day, setting aside time in the morning or evening to focus on writing your thoughts. Carry a pen and paper with you so you can journal when you are not at home. This way, when your thoughts spring up, you will be able to write them down as soon as you can and won’t lose track of them.

Write in any way you want – your journal does not have to follow a specific format or any format at all. With a journal, you don’t have to worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Just be yourself and let the words come out. You should only focus on speaking your mind. And keep your journal to yourself, if you want to. Having this place that acts as a sanctuary can be a great outlet. A journal is a place where you can just be you, without influence from anyone else.

Don’t feel like writing your thoughts and feelings down is something that only a preteen would do. As adults, a journal can still help us understand who we are, how we operate, and how we can be better people. It can be a safe haven and help us cope with our mental illness. So the next time you are feeling low or scared, get a notebook and start writing your thoughts down. Or even break open your old one – if it is still under your bed – and enjoy not only reading through your past memories but also starting to write some new ones.

We have likely shed a lot of the helpful and healthy tools we once used instinctively throughout our years of substance abuse. Whether it’s journaling, meditation, or exercise, it’s time to pick up a self-care practice again. If you’re ready to get sober, Camelback Recovery is here to help. Sobriety is not as uncharted as it may seem. Through a holistic recovery program, you can heal spiritually, mentally, and physically – you just need the time to do so. At Camelback Recovery, you’ll find the community you’re looking for and the experienced guidance you need. Give us a call at (602) 466-9880. Getting sober isn’t easy, but it can be an exciting period of your life, filled with transformational experiences and incredible growth.