Journaling to support recovery

Submitted by Sophie B

By now, you’ve probably heard of journaling and how a growing number of people are taking to the pages to deal with their thoughts, feelings and ultimately to better understand themselves. I am proud to say I am one of those people and journaling played a pivotal role in my eating disorder recovery. Today, I want to share with you a little on how to get started.

Now first up, you might be wondering, but would it even work for me?

My short answer would be yes, even if you’re not a fan of writing or don’t know where to start, I truly believe journaling can help anyone. It’s not about being the most eloquent writer or figuring it all out in one go. It’s about having another tool in your arsenal to succeed in your recovery. A free space to explore your thoughts and feelings on your own watch. Maybe you already have regular scheduled therapy sessions or maybe you’ve sought out professional help and are on a waiting list for treatment, regardless of your specific situation, there is generally still a lot of space in between those appointments. Journaling can be a cheap, easily accessible tool to help you through. It can also work as a great accompaniment to therapy, a record of how you’ve been feeling in between sessions, which can sometimes be hard to remember when the time comes around for an appointment.

I’m onboard! Now how do I get started?

This is probably one of the best things about journaling, as soon as you’ve picked up a notebook and pen, you’re ready to get going! It doesn’t have to be anything flash; my most used journals are A4 notebooks from the supermarket and a good old biro! If you’re not a fan of writing by hand, you can journal digitally but there is evidence to suggest that writing with pen and paper is more beneficial, so give it a try if you can.

I have my notebook, now what?

Before starting out in your new daily practice there is one main thing you want to try and figure out first. If you haven’t already, you need to find your WHY. Why do you want to recover? What is going to keep you going on this path? Is there someone (other than yourself) that you want to recover for?

I invite you to make this the first page of your journal. Feel into this new chapter of your life and visualise how recovery looks for you. It might feel scary or something you long for, but just write down what comes to mind. Once you have your WHY you can ease up on the deep dives (for now…)

If you haven’t journaled before and are in the early stages of recovery, I’d suggest starting small. It’s about forming the habit of journaling, something I didn’t do myself initially but once I did, it proved to be more beneficial.

Each day upon waking, check in with yourself, ask:
How am I feeling today? Any first thoughts upon waking?
After you’ve written a little, ask yourself:
What’s something nice I can do for myself today?

I found having a focus of something other than my eating disorder helped. I saw it as a reward for getting through the day. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be something simple such as, tonight I’m going to watch an episode of my favourite comedy show (even if you don’t feel like laughing, a familiar show you love can provide comfort).

I’d recommend ending your practice with gratitude. Write down one to three things you are grateful for that day. It could be the chance to recover or a person in your life who is cheering for you on your path of recovery. If you’d prefer, you could instead write down an affirmation for the day such as: today I am strong, regardless of what comes my way or today I am well and on my path to recovery. I always try to end my practice on a positive note even if I don’t feel great that morning.

Once you’ve been doing this for a few weeks or if you have journaled before, I’d suggest diving a little deeper. Maybe you want to talk about a particular recurrent issue you’ve been having. You could do this week by week For example, one week you might want to write all about self-worth or maybe you want to get more specific and write about a reoccurring memory that you can’t seem to shake.

This is your recovery, so I invite you to write about what you feel you need to address on the pages. You can think of it like being your own personal private detective, except instead of investigating the goings-on of others, you’re investigating yourself and how you came to be living with an eating disorder. Your journal can be a place of investigation, a place to vent, to soothe yourself, or simply a place to record your feelings from day to day. Regardless of how you choose to use it, I hope you consider giving it a whirl. I have and continue to figure out so much on those pages and it’s played a pivotal role in my recovery.

If you’d like more journaling guidance in your eating disorder recovery, Sophie has created a free comprehensive journaling course for people in all stages of recovery which can be found on her website, Recover You, a space designed to help you do exactly that, to recover who you are – through journaling and through community.

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