Russell Brand, in his book Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions, writes “in your life you’ve faced obstacles, inner and outer, that have prevented you from becoming the person you were ‘meant to be’ or ‘are capable of being’ and that is what we are going to recover. That’s why we call this process Recovery. We recover the ‘you’ that you were meant to be.” 
One tool we have in the recovery process is writing. Anne Frank, the young woman whose diary about her life hiding from the Nazis during World War II, describes the benefits of writing, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
The Benefits of Journaling for Eating Disorder Recovery
Journaling for eating disorder recovery has many mental health benefits. According to The American Psychiatric Association, “Journaling can provide general wellness and self-improvement benefits, such as making you more self-aware, boosting creativity and helping you build better habits.  And, according to PositivePsychology.com, journaling/expressive writing can:
- Boost your mood/affect
- Enhance your sense of well-being;
- Reduce symptoms of depression before an important event (like an exam);
- Reduce intrusion and avoidance symptoms post-trauma
- Improve your working memory
Different Ways to Journal
First, if you are recovering from an eating disorder or some form of disordered eating, avoid journaling about your meals, calories, or weight unless so directed by a professional. Outside of that, most everything is fair game when it comes to keeping a journal. The following are several ideas that you might find beneficial.
Journaling for Better Sleep
If you struggle with anxious thoughts that keep you awake at night, consider keeping a journal on the bedstand and write down the thoughts that are keeping you awake. If you know that you will have a difficult time falling asleep because of your anxiety plan ahead, about 30 minutes prior to your bedtime, write down all of the things that concern you.
At the end of the journal entry, finish with a statement such as, “Tomorrow is another day. I can actively work on these problems tomorrow. Tonight, I will get some sleep so that my brain is refreshed and ready to tackle another tomorrow.”
Journaling Overwhelming Emotions
If you feel overwhelmed with emotions like anger, fear, shame, or anxiety, take some time to write these thoughts and feelings down in your journal. After expressing yourself, you might ask yourself some questions like:
- Why do I feel so threatened right now?
- Is there another way to view my situation?
- What can I do to create a greater sense of safety for myself?
Journaling Your Prayers
If spirituality is an essential part of your life, journaling can be another form of prayer. Write out your thoughts to God and express your desire that God be involved in your life. After expressing your concerns, you might consider writing the answers to these questions:
- How might God’s love and provision apply to my situation?
- What spiritual truths can I apply to my concerns?
Gratitude Journaling for Eating Disorder Recovery
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the forms of journaling best supported by research. Again, PositivePsychology.com reports that the benefits of gratitude journaling include:
- Boosting your long-term well-being, encouraging exercise, reducing physical pain and symptoms, and increasing both length and quality of sleep
- Increasing your optimism and, indirectly, your happiness and health
- Reducing your symptoms of depression, for as long as you continue gratitude journaling
- Helping you make progress toward your goals
- Making you friendlier, more open, and more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors, which can enhance and expand your social support network
It is best to do this just before bed. Each night just before falling asleep, write down three things you appreciated from your day. These can be short, such as, “I am grateful for the nice weather today and the opportunity to go for a walk.”
Get specific and be creative. Then, as you fall asleep, meditate on the things that you wrote down. During the night, your brain will incorporate your gratitude in the way you experience life. In doing this, you are rewiring your brain and your life narrative to see your experiences more positively.
1. Brand, R. (2018). Recovery: Freedom from our Addictions. London: Bluebird.
2. Levine, D. (2018, September 24). Can You Boost Your Mental Health by Keeping a Journal? Retrieved April 27, 2020, from https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-09-24/can-you-boost-your-mental-health-by-keeping-a-journal
3. Ackerman, C. (2020, February 11). 83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. Retrieved April 27, 2020, from https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/
About the Author:
Travis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help.
This includes a special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Specifically, he has worked with eating disorders since 2003 and has learned from many of the field’s leading experts. He has worked with hundreds of individuals facing life-threatening eating disorders in all levels of treatment. His website is wtravisstewart.com
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published May 4, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on May 4, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC