A Gratitude Journal Could Make The Difference Between Recovery or Relapse

A Gratitude Journal Could Make The Difference Between Relapse and Recovery.


When we are grateful, we affirm that sources of goodness exist in our lives

- Dr. Robert Emmons.


Thanksgiving has come an gone but it doesn’t mean you should stop being grateful.

Research has shown the power gratitude has on creating positive life changes in regards to your physical and mental health, establish healthy relationships, and lead to happiness.


There are multiple pathways for you to stay sober and it's vital that you create your own personal plan for recovery. In recovery, you always have many reasons to let gratitude fill your heart.


You can consider your gratitude journal as part of this personal path.


But can a gratitude journal keep you sober?


During a conversation, I had with a recovery coach, Tod Dodge of Recovery 365, and he mentioned gratitude several times. He suggested that practicing gratitude upon waking has helped him stay sober, happy, and grounded in his recovery.


Gratitude is the key to my recovery.  First thought in the morning is to be grateful for another day sober because if I am not sober than nothing else good can happen that day. Over 25 years, believe me, many curve balls have been thrown at me,  knowing that no matter what happens if I am sober I can overcome it.

-Tod Dodge Recovery 365


Not only did Tod mention the power of gratitude in his recovery and how he feels his recovery coaching clients have benefited from practicing starting the day with 3 things to be grateful for-- in a journal, on a piece of paper, or in their heads.


Tod has 25+ years in long-term recovery, he is happy, down-to-earth, and enjoyable to speak with. He is healthy, smiles often, and his energy was warm and welcoming. My social anxiety and ineptitude washed away in his presence.  


Of the power of gratitude, he said, “I tell anyone who is stressed out to take a quick moment to be grateful.  Regardless of their current difficulty.” Making this practice a habit will be beneficial for long-term sustained recovery.

The power of gratitude journaling


Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, writes


One of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits and good things you enjoy.


Emmons feels that taking the time to recall the positive moments from our day no matter how “mundane or ordinary” you’ll begin to develop a “sustainable life theme of gratefulness.”


In the late 1990s, Oprah Winfrey popularized the power of gratitude journaling. She writes, “For years I've been advocating the power and pleasure of being grateful. I kept a gratitude journal for a full decade without fail—and urged you all to do the same.”


She continues in the article to explain how her life became busy and her ritual for expressing 5 things she was grateful for each day slipped away. Even though, she abundantly gained more financial and material success she felt unhappy. She attributes this loss in happiness and serenity to her ceasing to express her thankfulness in a gratitude journal.


Once again, Oprah Winfrey has begun gratitude journaling only now she keep an electronic journal and happiness, energy, and joy has come back into her life.


The difference is, I'm back to journaling—electronically—and whenever there's a grateful moment, I note it. I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.


Practical reasons for gratitude journaling in early recovery

Recovery is a time of transformation. Learning to live life without relying on alcohol or other drugs takes courage and time. In addition, you lost sight of who you were and the goals you wanted to achieve in life.


1.- Insight about you and your life


A gratitude journal will help you answer questions about yourself. Taking time to record your daily progress helps you to see patterns in your thinking and behaviors. The insight a journal provides you with could help you come to realize who you really are, facts about your life that addiction has hidden for many years, or revisit the behaviors you display again and again.


In short, keeping a journal allows you to be honest and open with yourself about yourself.


2- Develops the discipline for positive thinking


In recovery, it is easy to drift away and focus on all that is bad in your life. Feelings of regret, guilt, and shame push their way into your thoughts causing you to feel poorly about yourself and behavior.


Denial and the cunning power of addiction are constantly poised for an attack, but with a simple practice like gratitude journaling, you can train yourself to always see your glass half-full.


3- A record of your recovery

We all have good days and bad days. You are not alone. Keeping a gratitude journal will provide you and your loved ones with a record of all the positive changes and sources of goodness in your life. During one of those days when you can’t seem to shake self-loathing cracking open, a gratitude journal will make all the difference in getting you back on track to feeling positive about your life in recovery.

But where do you begin?

What to write about when keeping a gratitude journal


1- Find time each day to write down 5 to 10 things you are grateful for and make a commitment to do it. You don’t have to go out and buy an expensive leather bound journal (but you can if you wish) any notebook or app on your smartphone will do.  


You can create a new list each day. As your daily gratitude list becomes a habit,


2- Start choosing 1, 2, or 3  thankful tidings from your list and break each down into many components of thankfulness you feel on all levels.


For example, instead of writing, I’m grateful for my husband doing the laundry. Write about all the energy- minutes and hours, he puts into doing this task. Collecting dirty clothes, towels, and bedding. Loading the washing machine, making sure he has detergent and fabric softener. If not he must go to the store to purchase more. Loading clothes in the dryer or hanging out on the clothesline to air dry, Ironing, folding and putting the clothes away.


When journaling about something such as washing clothes from a mindful perspective you will begin to experience gratitude authentically.


3- Be mindful of and think of events that took you by surprise. What happened during that you didn't expect that led to your being happy and grateful.


4-Learn to record your entries and moments as if each were a gift given to you. Take time and express how each gift has made you feel, created a feeling of happiness and joy, or improving your wellness, peace of mind, and health.


5-Don’t just write about what has happened that day. Take time to be grateful for the change you have made in your life and how these changes have resulted in you avoiding negative outcomes.


For example, you can journal about how you had to constantly protect your addiction by creating excuses for your whereabouts, punctuality, lack of money, etc. Recovery has put an end to you have to constantly lie or make these excuses. When journaling about avoiding negative outcomes or feelings express how grateful you are for not having to continue this behavior.


6-Who are you grateful for? What person can you thank today? Whose day can you make by taking the time and sending them a greeting card expressing your thanks? Dive deep and explain how different your life is because he or she is present to help you, make you happy, or spend time with you.


7-Write about you seem to consistently take for granted in your life. Instead, start taking these new aspects in your life for granted. Train yourself to start feeling positive about you. Express your self-worth, self-esteem, and the virtues of good moral character you possess. Be grateful for who you are today.


Make gratitude journaling part of your daily routine


When I decided to start journaling again, I chose to be more mindful and consistent. I wanted to make journaling a habit again.  I chose to start a gratitude journal. I must push myself some mornings to write in the journal because the practice is not automatic. Some days I feel I am to busy to take the 15-20 minutes out of my schedule to write in the journal, but I push myself and I am grateful I made the time to feel gratitude.


I feel I’m starting to see positive changes in my attitude towards myself, husband, and others in the community.  So I will keep pushing on. You can experience this feeling. Take time to start being more mindful of all the little things in life, recovery, and the recovery community there are to be grateful for.


In a post on gratitude, recovery coach Mark O'connor, of The Lighthouse Sober Living Recovery 365 writes, “Gratitude is vital to my life in recovery. I’m grateful for being able to live an authentic and honest life in recovery.”


I’m grateful to be able to write this post for you today. More importantly, I hope you crack upon a fresh notebook and take advantage of the limitless possibilities of gratitude journaling. It could make the difference in staying on the road to recovery or relapse.

If you or a loved one is in need, please, don’t hesitate to make a confidential call to Mark O’connor, at The Lighthouse Sober Living Recovery 365.


John Makohengratitude, Journaling