I only recently started journaling regularly. I would write in one here and there, but never made it a habit. A week before everything shut down, I coincidentally started working a book called The Artist’s Way—a 12-week creativity course—in which the author suggests journaling three pages every morning. These are called “the morning pages.” They’ve turned out to be a helpful way to process the pandemic.
When I’m done with The Artist’s Way, I plan to replace the morning pages with evening pages. I know that my mind is sharper in the evening; I’m more likely to have insights then. I’ll set an alarm to write them until it becomes a habit, because I will forget unless it’s routine.
This is all to say that journaling regularly isn’t some unattainable thing, only for people naturally drawn to jotting down every thought. I used to think it was. But it just takes knowing yourself and your habits. If you can fit journaling into your life, you’ll get the most out of it.
Journaling will likely teach you more about yourself. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m thinking until I write unselfconsciously. We have so many thoughts taking up space in our heads, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Many of us are experiencing varying emotions. Putting those thoughts and feelings on the page helps declutter the mind and provide clarity.
If you’re new to recovery, you may not know who you are without substances. Journaling can help you find out. The things you’re interested in, that inspire or annoy you—all those can become clearer when you journal.
Journaling has also been shown to help people process trauma. One study from the University of Chicago found that anxious test takers who wrote about their feelings before the test received better grades. In another study, done at the University of Texas, Austin, 46 students were asked to journal for four consecutive days about either traumatic events in their lives or trivial topics. Those who journaled about traumas visited the campus health center less often in the following six months. This suggests that it doesn’t take months and months of journaling to have a positive impact.
That said, writing in a journal over time can give you clarity on changes in your mood or outlook. It’s a good reference to report to any mental health professionals treating you. And it can help you notice progress. Especially in early recovery, changes happen so fast. It’s hard to keep up. Lots of thoughts get lost to time, but when you reach recovery milestones, looking back at old journal entries can be a nice way to celebrate your growth.
It’s satisfying to know you’ve kept a journaling habit. I recently reached the last page of the journal I started at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a good feeling.
Journaling isn’t for everyone, but it is attainable for everyone. Even if you don’t end up journaling consistently, it can be a helpful tool to have in your pocket. And the only real-world tools you need to do it are a pen and some paper.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope. TruHealing Centers is open throughout the crisis, with hospital-grade sanitization of our facilities and telehealth options, so that you can feel safe in treatment. At our recovery centers across the country, we will empower you with the tools you need to build a life in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.