What is keeping you from starting a gratitude journal?


It is a simple practice. It doesn’t require much time. New research proves expressing thankfulness in a gratitude journal will have positive effects on your health.

Dr. Robert Emmons 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.”

Usually, bloggers, journalists, even your neighbors start buzzing about gratitude during Thanksgiving. 

Unfortunately, once Thanksgiving has come and gone, gratitude gets folded up and packed away.  

Many of us myself included tuck it away, with the festive dark-orange tablecloth, holiday candles, and your grandmother’s god-awful turkey sweater. 

Unfortunately, this is a huge mistake, especially in recovery — practice gratitude every day. Learning to see the world through the lens of gratitude will 10x the happiness you feel in your recovery. 

Research has shown that practicing gratitude creates positive life changes in regards to your physical and mental health, helps establish healthy relationships, and leads to happiness.

I know we are all busy people. Our lives, families, careers, and your system for recovery plans all demand our attention. Taking time to add another task to your overflowing schedule doesn’t seem feasible. Maybe you are on the fence about whether a gratitude journal can help you find happiness in your recovery journey. You know keeping a gratitude journal sounds like a good idea. But when the chips fall, you don’t believe a journal full of thankfulness will keep the needle out of your arm any more than adhering to a balanced diet.

I get it; recovery is subjective. 

When you were using life seemed so much easier, but hell, you only had one goal to maintain, and that was escaping the hectic, chaotic nature of life. Going with the flow was comfortable, with a vein full of heroin.

Recovery = ACTION

All your recovery wants and needs from you is for you to show up. To do something positive each day to make you better than yesterday.

Recovery is a time of transformation. Learning to live life without relying on alcohol or other drugs takes courage and time. While actively using, you lost sight of your life’s purpose and the goals you sought to achieve in life. It doesn’t matter how you came into your recovery. What matters is how you plan to maintain the freedom from the obsession to use. 

Taking time out of your hectic schedule for self-reflection and assessing your progress toward your recovery goals is vital to reaching the ultimate version of yourself. 

No matter how chaotic my lifestyle had become, I maintained a journal of some sort. I always found journaling a way to maintain a semblance of sanity. Or a way to help me remember how insane life had become.

I used my journal to stay connected to myself. Granted, I can’t read many of the entries cause my handwriting suffers from the heroin nod, but I still let the words flow out of me, and this kept me grounded. 

After a relapse, I started taking my recovery seriously. I made it a point to record my feelings, plans, objectives, and review my progress in a journal daily. Eventually, I added an exercise to express gratitude in my journaling sessions. 

Here are three practical reasons why a gratitude journal is so powerful to your recovery:

1 – Your gratitude journal shows you insight about your life in recovery

A gratitude journal will help you answer questions about yourself and your recovery. Taking time to record your daily progress helps you to see patterns in your thinking and behaviors. Your journal provides insight. It will help you 

• Realize who you are, 

• Facts about your life addiction have hidden for many years, 

• Revisit the similar behaviors you wish to change that you display again and again.

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

A few weeks ago, I set out to see my personal pastor. It had been months since I visited. When I got to the church, I found out that he would be in Rwanda for six months. I was angry at myself for putting my shit first. Losing contact with the people I claim to care about is easy for me. It is a problem and it needs to stop. As I was walking back to the 1 train, tail between my legs, I felt super sleazy, low, and angry. I realized I had to something about this recurring theme in my life.  

Later that evening, I made time to write in my journal about how I take relationships with friends, peers, and mentors for granted. 

Once I got the hardcore self-loathing out of my system, my perspective changed. I started to examine other positive changes that surfaced during my visit to Lower Manhattan Community Church. Years ago, I would have blamed Ryan, blamed my addiction and the past, and never assume responsibility. Today, I am thankful for my accountability.  I openly admitted while speaking with others at LMCC. 

There is hope for Johnny.

While journaling, it became evident I didn’t blame Ryan, my freelancing job, or Eddie (my husband). Nor did I create an arbitrary alignment between Jupiter and Saturn for my taking my friendship with Ryan for granted. Instead, I looked at my failure head-on. When I met Ryan, I was homeless with 2 years sober and always teetering on the edge of relapse. Since meeting him, much has changed in my life, and I now have a system for recovery.  

Even though many changes have been made, I still tend to trick myself into believing I don’t have time to reach out and connect with others. 

I am used my gratitude journal to express my feelings and understand where I need to work harder in my recovery. Gratitude journaling also showed me the positive changes I’ve made. In the past, I would have let my shortcomings eat away at me. I would’ve leaned into regret and self-pity, and let it eat away at me. It would eventually turn into anger.  Instead of allowing how I felt to absorb me and knock me off balance, I used the habit of gratitude journaling to look at this event subjectively.

Your gratitude journal can work as a tool to help you self-assess your progress in recovery. Gaining insight about your progress helps you to tweak your system for recovery. You’ll learn to spot the areas in your life, still causing you discomfort and pain, and figure out what to do about it.  

2 – Your gratitude journal helps you develop a 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.

When you recollect moments from your day, you can see where you have positively changed. Your journal helps build muscle memory. For example, when you work through a craving to use heroin or other drugs, without using writing about it reinforces your success.  

A simple plan to follow:

• Detail the event

• How were you feeling?

• What did you do when the craving to use struck you like a freight train?

• Call a peer, hit a meeting, or pull out your journal and write about the feeling? 

Following this plan reinforces affirmative action and builds muscle memory and reinforcement. 

 The more you see yourself acting positively, the better you will start to feel about the future of your recovery. 

Reinforcing all of your positive accomplishments helps you to develop a discipline for positive thinking. Practicing positivity in the lines of your journal helps you to create new beliefs about yourself. As your gratitude journal fills with accounts of happiness, thankfulness, triumph over addictive behaviors, and unwanted behaviors, you’ll create evidence-based patterns of positive change. Your self-worth, faith in yourself and your community, and your right to be happy are restored.

Arise Recovery Coaching in NYC will help you forge your plan to find freedom from heroin and other drugs.

3 – Gratitude journaling helps keep a record of your recovery journey


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 off the ‘fuck, it’s’ defeating your badass self from having a fantastic day in recovery, crack open your gratitude journal. Within the pages, you’ll find numerous reasons for you to celebrate your recovery with gratitude and thankfulness. Rereading your gratitude journal could make all the difference in getting you back on track and feeling positive about your life in recovery.

When you incorporate a gratitude journal in your system for recovery, you are building a database of: 

  • Happy memories and triumphs 
  • Kind friends, peers, and mentors,
  • Recovery quotes 
  • Meetings and support groups
  • Recovery-friendly cafes, clubs, and events
  • Completed goals
  • Aspirations
  • Inspiration
  • And more – the possibilities are endless – get creative!

The ball is in your court.

Now that you’re sober, it seems everyone and everything demands a piece of you. Some days just dragging your ass to a meeting takes all the energy you can gather up. However, once you get there and see the smiling faces and chat it up with a few friends, you feel better, connected, and glad you found the strength to show up.

If you follow #recovery or #justfortoday on Instagram multiple pathways and new therapies to kick your recovery in the ass, it needs flash across your IG Feed, with lightning speed. Each day you can watch a new IG Live session about what a fellow peer in the recovering world is doing today to stay sober and how you can do it too. 

And you know what? If it worked for them, it might work for you. Then again, it might not. You never know unless you try, and what have you got to lose? So nothing is stopping you from taking 5 minutes out of your day to spend expressing thankfulness.

Gratitude and Instagram

Try keeping your gratitude journal on your IG feed. Vow to take 15 minutes a day to create a post about what you are grateful for. It won’t hurt you. You’ll express thankfulness for a loved, friend, recovery coach, sponsor, or a stranger who ‘did you a solid’ earlier in the day. 

Nothing but you. Why don’t you decide to try it out? Use your phone, make it simple.

If it doesn’t work, you can go back to your old recovery plan and maintain your sobriety. 

But what if you take action, show up, and it works?

Then you have gained so much more. Then like Emmon’s said, you could start experiencing life through a lens of gratefulness. 

Want new articles before they get published?
Subscribe to our Awesome Newsletter.

Read more blog posts featured on, The Arise Addiction Recovery Coaching Blog

Blog post header image for roadblock to recovery post

Are You Letting Roadblocks to Recovery Sabotage Your happiness?

Roadblocks to recovery are barriers blocking your recovery path. Learn 15 types of barriers keeping you from happiness and fulfillment.

Blog post header image for What triggers cravings and urges to use heroin or other drugs

What Triggers Cravings and Urges To Use Heroin or Other Drugs Here

Learn how a recovery coach can help you develop coping strategies to manage cravings and urges to use heroin and other drugs.

Blogpost header for A personal Case Study How Harm Reduction saved my life

A Personal Case Study: Harm Reduction Saved My Life

Harm reduction works. A case study showing how harm reduction created an environment for change without the fear of withdrawal and physical pain.