“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
-John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educator
Reflecting on our lives helps us learn from our experiences during the recovery process. We often learn best from examining our mistakes and successes, rather than learning from the experience itself. How can we learn from our mistakes without ever looking back on them? In all likelihood, most of us will make the same mistakes over and over without any thought about change. Only when we become introspective and work on understanding ourselves better do we see true change come forth. Journaling while in recovery is a great way to reflect on your past — and even more importantly, to learn from your past.
The first step is fairly obvious — you will need something to write in. You can buy notebooks for a dollar or less or use a note application on your phone. You can also use your computer and type a journal. Research favors writing with pen and paper, as the physical act of writing by hand helps to memorize what is written, as opposed to using an electronic device. Regardless, use whatever material is available and accessible to you. Typing a journal on your phone is far better than not starting one at all.
To be consistent in writing in your journal, pick a time and place to write. Due to the private nature of journaling, many people prefer to journal in their bedrooms before going to bed or after waking up. Find a place where you have few distractions and pick a time of day when you are least likely to be interrupted. Remember, if you pick the same time and place to write each day, you are more likely to build journaling into your daily routine.
Think about how much time you have to journal as well. This is your journal, and there is no word count requirement. Some days you may have less to write, while other days you might fill several pages. Even investing just five minutes in this positive and healthy habit is better than no time spent at all.
Now that you have your pen and paper or your laptop open, what do you write about? You can use prompts to help you get started with your journaling. Feel free to mix them up or use a different one each day.
Sometimes, you can start the process by simply describing your day step-by-step. The general idea is to get yourself started and into a flow. This is for you alone — spelling does not matter and no one will judge the neatness of your handwriting. But journaling will take some practice, just like any new skill.
Journaling will often prompt you to start thinking more about your day, so you may find yourself automatically noticing things you want to write about later. As you continue with your journal and get several entries written, begin reviewing past entries on a routine basis. You might even start by reviewing the previous day before starting your newest entry. As a prompt, you can also review a week’s worth of entries and derive a personal lesson from them. In recovery, reviewing your journal can help you to identify triggers and reinforce your successes. Looking back on good things throughout your week will prime you to think more positively and develop a healthy mindset.
Remember, journaling is about reviewing our experiences to learn from them, whether they are good or bad. You may notice patterns that correlate with how you feel each day. Examining your daily life consistently by journaling will help you understand yourself better and enhance your path to recovery.
Do you feel stuck in a rut dealing with addiction issues? Are you struggling to cope with depression or anxiety following a traumatic experience? In addition to journaling your experiences, you could benefit from sharing your stories with others in similar situations. The Kimberly Center offers a safe and healthy environment for you and others just like you who are ready to begin to heal. Our goal is to understand you and your concerns, and to help you achieve a fulfilling, substance-free life without fear of relapse. Located in Ft. Myers, Florida we offer outpatient, short-term and long-term residential, intensive outpatient, and continuing care programs to help you deal with your addiction on your terms. Our holistic approach offers a wide variety of therapies and our compassionate staff will help you develop a program unique to your needs. To learn more, call us today at (855)-452-3683.