May 07


Journaling can be an extremely helpful tool for self reflection.  There is therapeutic value in having a place to release emotions, solidify goals, track progress and record the experiences of the day.   When used on a regular basis for problem-solving and stress reduction the healing process is greatly enhanced.  In the early stages of recovery there is a lot going on inside of us and journaling creates an opportunity to express thoughts and feelings in a constructive and private way.

“Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.” 

~ Francis Bacon

Most of us have started a journal at some point but it’s through the regular practice of writing that we begin to realize the true benefits.   Being able to look back over the progress you’ve made is especially encouraging.  The two most important things about journaling are consistency and honesty.  A consistent and rigorously honest record of your experiences and emotional reactions provides a great deal of information about our habits and recurring patterns that can’t be accurately reproduced simply through memories.  Journaling is a method for looking back through our own eyes at events as we saw them when they actually took place.  Reading through past journal entries without judgment teaches us about ourselves.  We begin to understand ourselves more fully and encourage the process of self discovery.

There are many types of journals but here are some that are especially useful in recovery:

  •  Step-work or other Recovery Journal
  • Daily Journal of Experiences
  • Goal Setting Journal
  • Success Journal
  • Stream of Consciousness Journal
  • Meditation Journal
  • Prayer Journal
  • Dream Journal
  • Gratitude Journal
  • Health, Fitness or Yoga Journal

Tips for journal writing:

  • Find a notebook or open a word document and dedicate that space for journal entries only.
  • Write frequently, daily if possible, allowing the time and privacy to fully explore the topic for that entry.
  • Date your entries for future reference.  Reading through past entries can be even more useful when you attach a timeframe for each writing.
  • Don’t over think.  Just start to write.  Allow the raw truth to show itself on the pages without censorship or concern for writing style.
  • Use writing prompts, step work, quotes, daily meditations, music, artwork and photos to get you started.  Consider writing about specific goals, conflicts, emotions and memories.
  • It can be helpful to have several journals used for different purposes.  You might want to combine a journal for goals along with one recording your successes, a prayer and gratitude journal or a journal for your experiences with yoga and meditation while keeping separate journals for step-work or other topics that serve a specific function.

Think about starting with a journal devoted to the Steps and other recovery writing.  If you feel inspired add a second journal that is more multipurpose depending on what seems most helpful to you at the time.  Starting out with too many books at once can get a little scattered.  Sometimes having a second journal used for writing about whatever you’re in the mood for each day is all you need. Just make sure that if you’re using this method you clearly date and label the type or topic of each entry so that when you look back on it you can remember why you wrote it in the first place. Once you get into the habit of writing on a regular basis you’ll know what makes the most sense for you.

Much more to come in future posts on the different types of journals, tips and prompts to keep you writing.  Check the category “The Mind” in the right sidebar for ongoing posts.  Visit the page on “Journaling” under the “Mind” menu for books and more information on journaling.


Online Journaling Links:

Journal Me Now (journalmenow.com)  Online 10th Step journal to track your progress. The goal is to become balanced through taking a daily inventory and journaling. This site is free for the first 30 days, then $10 per month or $100 for a year subscription.

My Therapy Journal (livingfile.com)  My Therapy Journal is a therapy-oriented online journaling tool. It provides a private and secure venue that tracks progress of personally set goals using graphing software based on cognitive behavioral therapy. 14 day free trial membership.

Penzu (penzu.com)  This site has free sign up to create your own online journal. Visit the site and watch the video on the home page for more information.

Living File (livingfile.com)  Online journaling made easy. Offers insightful information about your life in a new way. Sign up for a free account.


Recommended Reading:


  • CinderellaSue

    I’ve started journaling a million times.  I buy beautiful books to write in.  I look at them and long to write…but I don’t.  A fear of truth?  Writers block?  Fear of committment?  Something to examine as I continue on my journey of growth…

  • Jane

    Hi Cinderella Sue!  So glad you’re here :)   I love your comment – it’s so true.  I think most of us love the idea of journaling, buying a journal, even starting a journal but USING a journal on a regular basis isn’t always easy.  I know I’ve done the same thing many times before it really stuck and developed the habit without censoring myself.  Maybe try just writing a few sentences about your feelings each day or a few words of gratitude.  Try making it part of your morning or evening routine without expecting anything from yourself but to open it and write whatever comes to mind no matter how short or random. Maybe not even what you would consider a journal at first but a simple list of things that go through your head or use a short quote or writing prompt to help you get started.  This is just for you, it doesn’t have to be eloquent or follow any specific format.  Sometimes a file on the computer feels less permanant than those beautiful books that we hesitiate to write in, helping us to think of it as a tool that doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty.  If you have the desire I encourage you to give it a try again.  And if it doesn’t fit for you right now know that it will always be there waiting for you when you’re ready.

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