Journaling is a highly beneficial activity that promotes self-expression, reflection, organization, and more. Our staff encourages clients at Two Dreams Outer Banks to carry a personal journal with them wherever they go, and to take full advantage of the writing and introspection periods that are built into their daily schedules.
We ask that they record details about their recovery journeys and deliberate on them in order to create insights and self-awareness. We also go through and review the recorded notes and reflections with each client in order to help correlate their actions with outcomes. Clients are then able to adjust their habits accordingly to fit the healthy lifestyle that they need and desire.
Journaling isn’t only for clients in residential treatment, though. Now it’s your turn! Challenge yourself to keep a journal for at least one week and see what you discover about yourself!
Here are the instructions that our clients use to guide their journaling process, as well as a PDF (hyperlink to download PDF) of their Journal Sheet for you to print out and use. All instructions can be modified to work for a blank sheet of paper as well, if you prefer to format your own journal.
1. Print out the Journal Sheet
2. Write the date at the top right corner of the page.
Write the number 1 in the top left corner if this is your first day using the Journal Sheet.
3. Record everything you eat throughout the day along the right column of the Journal Sheet.
You can also use this space to plan out your meals for the day ahead of time. “Energizers” are nutritious, energy-boosting smoothies comprised of Greek yogurt, juice, and fruit/vegetables that are designed to wake up your metabolism first thing in the morning. Try to incorporate nutrient-rich foods into your diet while restricting sugar and caffeine intake.
The ideal daily food intake is portioned into quarters: 6.2 ounces of grain per day, 2.6 cups of green vegetables per day, 2.1 cups of colorful veggies or fruit per day, 3.1 cups of dairy per day, and 4 ounces of protein (6 ounces for males) per day.
4. Create a personalized goal for the day and record it at the top of your Journal Sheet in the “I am working on…” space.
Goals can be anything you want them to be, though we encourage you to write down bite-sized, manageable goals. For example, write down “I am working on taking a 30 minute walk each day” instead of “I am working on losing 20 lbs.” Accomplishing even small goals will make you feel good about yourself and encourage you to continue the behavior. If you want to write down an abstract goal, for example “I am working on being grateful,” you should also include a plan to put that aim into action.
For example, you could write down that you are going to call your mother today and tell her you appreciate everything that she’s done for you, or you could write down that you will go volunteer for a shift at a soup kitchen at dinnertime to give back to a community in need.
5. Conduct H.A.L.T. checks as often as possible throughout the day, preferably once every waking hour, as a means of keeping in touch with your body.
This acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired; the idea being that if one is experiencing these feelings then one is more susceptible to negative consequences. For example, fluctuations in blood sugar levels can cause irritability, depression, etc. which have the potential to lead to irrational actions. The goal is to be able to recognize inner signals, such as hunger, and respond in a manner that resolves the issue without succumbing to temptation or unconstructive behavior.
Ideally, by engaging in H.A.L.T. checks throughout the day, you can get in the habit of taking care of needs preemptively and without acting inappropriately. Use the table at the bottom of the Journal Sheet to keep track of your H.A.L.T. checks. Under each hour, draw the shape corresponding to categories you feel are problematic for you at the time. Ideally, you want to feel satiated, peaceful, able to maintain a balance between giving and receiving, and alert. Any deviations (in either direction) from these ideals should be recorded.
6. Write down notes and reflections periodically throughout the day.
It may be difficult at first and you may only have a few words to record, but you will build up momentum over time. Feel free to write down anything that comes to mind; there are no “right or wrong answers.” You can write simple things, like that you feel fatigued after lunch, or that you can see a beautiful bird outside of your window, or that you are making plans to see a movie with a friend tomorrow and are looking forward to it. You can also write significant events or abstractions, like that you are worried you won’t be able to pay rent at the end of the month, or that you feel self-conscious about your weight and keep experiencing intrusive thoughts, or that you’ve been generally happy and content all day for no particular reason.
7. Before bed, take 30 minutes or so to reflect upon your day and write down your closing thoughts.
Did you achieve your daily goal? What would you have done differently? Do you have any regrets? What will your daily goal be for tomorrow? Fill in the blanks after “I wish I had…” and “Tomorrow I will…” with the appropriate reflections.
Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments!