How to Bullet Journal to Help with Addiction Treatment

How to Bullet Journal to Help with Addiction Treatment

Bullet journals have become a popular way to manage self-care, and more people are jumping on board every day. Recovering from substance use disorder or other mental health issues? Try Bullet journaling! If you love to journal, take note, or check off lists, bullet journaling will be right up your alley. Bullet journals have become a popular way to manage self-care, and more people are jumping on board every day. A bullet journal is a planner that you get to design. You can take full creative liberties with these journals or follow the basics. Some people use it as a true calendar, while others have pages upon pages of unique-to-them content. You don't have to be super creative. There are templates and ideas galore to help you create the perfect personalized journal for your needs. The possibilities are truly endless. Planning a trip and need a packing checklist? Bullet journal. Tracking your weight or food habits? Bullet journal. Need a place to doodle when the mood hits? Bullet journal. Recording all the crazy things that have happened in 2020? Bullet journal. Recovering from substance use disorder or other mental health issues? Bullet journal.

Dual Diagnosis

Addiction is a disease, as are mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and stress. They are partially due to a genetic predisposition. They can be caused or triggered by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The best treatment includes behavioral therapy and carefully prescribed medications. The two often co-occur as well. About half of the people with SUD also have a mental health issue, and vice versa. Such a co-occurrence is called a dual diagnosis. It’s not always clear if one condition led to the other, but some people with mental health issues take drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate for an undiagnosed mental health issue. What is clear is that both conditions must be treated for if you hope for long-term recovery. Just like there are things you can do to help with other diseases, such as watching what you eat, if you have heart disease, you can do things to help you manage an addiction as you seek treatment or are in recovery.

How Bullet Journaling Can Help

Bullet journaling can be one. Theories on why journaling is so important to mental health abound. Still, writing can guide you in confronting emotions and the related stress of trying to avoid them, help you process life experiences, and in general, bring about more self-awareness. Journaling primarily draws on your left or rational brain, leaving the right or creative side free. In particular, visual journaling, which bullet journaling can employ, can have a large impact. The Positive Psychology online resource or platform says journaling can:
  1. Boost mood
  2. Enhance feelings of well-being
  3. Improve working memory
  4. Reduce anxiety and depression
  5. Reduce avoidance symptoms post-trauma
  6. Shift you from a negative to a positive mindset
  7. Help detect unhealthy patterns
  8. Put things in perspective
  9. Improve self-awareness
  10. Clear your mind
  11. Help you identify triggers
  12. Track progress
  13. Promote action
  14. Help with planning and self-management
Some studies show that it can boost your immune system, lower blood pressure, help you sleep better, and keep you healthier overall. Psychologist Barbara Markway shared with Positive Psychology that "There's simply no better way to learn about your thought processes than to write them down." Journaling -- recording your struggles and accomplishments to hold yourself accountable and work through your triggers -- can specifically impact addiction recovery. It is cathartic to write things down. It is also beneficial to include a daily gratitude page in your journal, listing everything you are grateful for on that day.

Tips to Help You Get Started

It's important to remember that this is your journal. There are no rules to bullet journaling. You can journal once a day or once a week, as long as you make a point of using it. Every time you journal, you are getting your thoughts and feelings out on paper, which helps clear your head and allows you to make connections between your mind and body. The more you journal, the better you are likely to feel. Another good practice in bullet journaling for mental health or addiction treatment is to go back and review your journal every so often. This can help you identify patterns or areas you may still need to work on, see how far you have come, and celebrate the little successes. Trackers -- graphs, lists, or charts recording how much time you spend on social media, exercising, reading, journaling, etc., along with your daily mood -- can help you see where your treatment efforts may be working. Journal Therapy has a short course filled with tips on journaling best practices, and many apply to bullet journaling and mental health that use the acronym WRITE to help you remember.


W - What topic? Identify what you want to write about. Give it a name. R - Review/reflect. Take deep breaths, focus, and think of how you want to express your topic. I - Investigate. Let your pen be your guide and record what you are processing: your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. T - Time yourself. Some people get bogged down by perfection, but bullet journaling isn't about being perfect, it's about expressing yourself fully. So having a 5 minute set time to just create can help get your thoughts down. E - Exit smart. Re-read what you wrote so you can close out healthily, identifying any actionable items and steps you can take to do or be better, forgive yourself, or celebrate yourself.

Journal Page Ideas

There are some great samples of bullet journal pages on this website, but again, the possibilities here are endless. You can create anything you need in your bullet journal, and you don't need a lot of supplies to get started. Here are some great ideas for pages that can go in your bullet journal, specific to addiction recovery or mental health:
  1. Self-care tracker
  2. Habit tracker
  3. Routine layout
  4. Goals tracker
  5. Mood tracker (or anxiety, etc.)
  6. Gratitude log
  7. Fitness tracker
  8. What's working/not working spread
  9. Life lessons log
  10. Motivational words layout (or quotes, inspiration, affirmations, etc.)
  11. Future log (calendar, weekly planner, to-do list, etc.)
  12. Doodles (or brain jump, something random, etc.)
  13. Sober tracker
  14. Medication tracker
  15. Got it done list
  16. Therapy notes
  17. Sleep tracker
  18. Love list
  19. Coping strategies list
  20. Reality checklist
This list is not exhaustive and there are many more ideas in the land of Google. Even just doing some journal prompts each day can be helpful. The idea is to get your thoughts on paper and to be as creative as you want in the process.

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When Bullet Journals Aren't Enough

Bullet journaling is a great way to track different things related to addiction recovery and mental health, offering some relief and consistency for anyone dealing with a dual diagnosis. With the addition of this tool - part journal and part record - you will hopefully see better results in your treatment plan. But if you are struggling with relapsing or if you need the help of a professional, be sure to reach out to someone. Bring your bullet journal with you. It may help your counselor understand what you are going through and how to treat it.

Meet the Author: Patrick Bailey

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.
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