What should I write about in my journal?
anonymous Asks ...
This is a stupid question. I am trying to quit marijuana and alcohol and I am also having a hard time with a bad break up with a person I had thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. A professional I spoke to about it recommended that I keep a journal. It sounded good and I even went out and bought a fancy leather looking notebook thingy to write in. Problem is, when I sat down to write I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to talk about…like what I had for dinner that night or a list of what I had done that day. Honestly I couldn’t think of anything better to write about. Doesn’t seem very helpful. What kinds of things am I supposed to be writing down to make this work?
Mark Hughes Says ...
Well done for going out and buying a nice journal, and for puzzling over what to write about.
It isn't a silly question - the person who recommended it assumed you would know, but how could you if this is new to you! Just a mistake on their part.
So what to write about. Firstly, you're half way there realising that what you had for dinner isn't helpful. Its ok to write about things you did, ate and so on. It won't do any harm, but what people tend to find helpful is to include how they felt, or what they observe about situations that trigger feelings or behaviours.
So to start you might want to note down when you had alcohol. When marijuana. Maybe how much. If you can, how it affected you afterwards - did you feel great for the next day or a bit down. Energised, listless. Did you notice any behaviours that seemed to flow - "I snapped at my colleague" or "I had a really nice talk with my friend P" etc.
Next is to notice what happened before things that you see as good or bad. Did you feel sad, or did something disappoint you or...
I find evenings alone are a time when I'm most likely to seek comfort in a drink. Maybe there are times that you are more or less likely.
Writing a few notes at the end of each day, or a time that suits you, can help you develop awareness of what you do, think and feel. And to make links between them and things that happen to you, or times and places, people, and so on.
Another use of a journal can be to just "let it out". Let yourself write freely about how you feel about a situation or a person. It is a private personal journal, so you can write anything without censoring. It can be quite a surprise, even shocking what we really think and feel sometimes, especially about the people closest or most important to us. We can have raging and destructive feelings as well as loving and appreciating thoughts and feelings towards those we love and it can help to acknowledge these rather than bottle them up, or pretend they're not there.
I hope there are some things in what I've suggested that you can try and might find useful. If you'd like to let me know in a few weeks how you got on, please do. Maybe you'll find something I haven't suggested too.
I suggest you be patient and keep going for a while before you decide it doesn't work for you, especially if you start to think of it as silly. It may not feel useful at first, but give it a go and see.