Blog post author header image John Makohen recovery coaching in nyc

John Makohen
Arise Recovery Coaching in NYC

Gratitude journaling has many benefits. 

Before I started to use my journal for keepintrack of what I was grateful each day, I was full of resentment, anger, and always battling negative self-talk.

Gratitude helped me to overcome past emotional states of uselessness and frustration. It helped me to learn to forgive, love my self and others, and power my recovery with happiness and certainty. 

You can jumpstart your recovery, realign yourself with your purpose, and create a detailed account of your past, present and future.


Who has time?

You don’t need a boatload of time to start gratitude journaling. Give it a go, start with 5-10 minutes a day and maybe one session longer on the weekends to dive deep into the events of your week. 

If your in recovery you should be spending time on self-reflection weekly, so why not do it with gratitude? 

What have you to lose — about 10-15 hours a month? 

If it doesn’t work, you can take this time back and quit. But you have todo it a solid, no half-steppin’ hear. 

But before you say hell no, think of how much more fantastic life will become when you start 10x’ing your happiness, rehaping your past, living in the present, and imagining your future. 

Oprah Winfrey quote about why gratitude journaling is vital to her success

Use your gratitude journal to track your progress in recovery

Recovery is a process, so my recovery is based upon a suystem. I conscioulsy choose actions to take each day to create the best version of myself. Most of the work I do in recovery is done in the early morning when I am fresh. I feel it sets the tone for the day, puts recovery first, and sets me up to win.

Gratitude journaling has become a major part of my system. It helps me measure where I am at, my gains, and reflect upon where I need to work harder.  While gratitude journaling I have learned how to forgive myself and stop living with regret. I have reshaped my past. The endings of the stories I told myself for years have changed. The purpose and lessons I learned are much different compared to the stories I told myself when I was strung-out and homeless.

Keep reading to learn how to start gratitude journaling.

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

How to start gratitude journaling and 10X your vision of the world.

1 – Make time to write each day

Find time each day to write down 5 to 10 things you are grateful for and how each makes you feel.

You can do this while you are waiting for your morning coffee to brew. You don’t have to spend a lot of time to start injecting gratitude into your daily system for recovery.

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 – Once a week make your gratitude journaling session a bit longer

Start this session by choosing 1, 2, or 3 thankful tidings from your list. 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 and 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. Packing clothes in the dryer or hanging out on the clothesline to air dry, Ironing, folding, and putting the clothes away.

Write about:

• How your clothes smell afterward?

• How fresh and clean they feel?

• And most of all, how does this consistent act of generosity make you feel?

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

 Brene Brown quote on gratitude journaling: practice gratitude to honor what's ordinary about our lives, because that is what's truly extraordinary."

3 – Recall positive events, surprising moments, and happy memories


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 – Experience life as a gift


Have you ever watched children at play, discovering new ways to enjoy themselves, or visiting someplace new? For example, when was the last time you went to the zoo. Did you listen to the excitement of your children’s voices as you came around the corner and found yourself staring face to face with a lion, tiger, or bear? (forget that oh my B.S. – you left Oz when you put the needle down!)

Learn to write about your days with the excitement of a child seeing the ocean or the Grand Tetons for the first time. Find the awe inside of everything you have done the previous day and be grateful to experience clean and sober.

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.

Over the years, I kicked dope countless times, most of these kicks were to get a handle on my ever-growing habit. The thought of me kicking dope forever was too large a concept to wrap my head around. The first 40 hours of withdrawal were painless. I just slipped into a comatose state, but once I awoke the last 30 to 50 hours were the tough part. I managed to get through and pull myself together. 

Once it was over, I picked myself up from the floor of the squat or my mother’s couch and readied myself to meet up with old friends. You know the crew you disconnected from when you started shooting heroin. The friends who didn’t approve of you doing junk. Eventually, I would head out, to the local pub for a pint of ale and joint with my old crew. Once I entered the pub and situated myself, I sit down and hear the music. I mean really hear the music -like it was the first time I had ever heard such beautiful sounds. It was beautiful, and it always brought tears to my eyes. 

Your gratitude journal is a place where you can capture these moments. Write about how grateful you are to experience all the gifts life offers you each day. The more you exercise your gratitude to muscle, the more you will come to appreciate the living, breathing, awe-inspiring wonders of our world connecting with you.  

When you practice gratitude, you will never feel alone.

Blog banner Robert Emmons on gratitude journaling: “Gratitude empowers us to take charge of our emotional lives and, as a consequence, our bodies reap the benefits.”

5 – Dive deep into your WHY


Don’t just write about what has happened that day. 

Take time to be grateful for the changes you have made in your life. If you dive deep into why you are thankful for something, you will connect with your purpose. When you have a purpose in life, you have direction. You have something to live for, strive for, a reason to exist and connect with the world you previously sought solace from. 

Take note of these changes. How have the changes resulted in positive outcomes, prepared you to handle high-risk situations, and helped you hurdle over some roadblocks to your recovery?

Try gratitude journaling about how you had to continually protect your addiction by creating excuses for your whereabouts, punctuality, lack of money, etc. 

Recovery puts an end to you having excuses ready to recite at those who care about your wellbeing. 

When journaling about avoiding adverse outcomes or feelings, express how grateful you are for not having to continue this behavior.


6 – Who gives you hope to carry on


Who are you grateful for? What person can you thank today? 

Use your gratitude journal to explain why this person deserves your thanks and admiration. Write a letter of thankfulness to the person in the pages of your journal. You never have to send the draft because it is in your journal, but you can post a greeting card, or at best an email, phone call or text. In the draft of your letter take time to explain how different your life is because this person is part of your recovery. 

Whose day can you make better by taking the time and sending them a greeting card expressing your thanks? 


7- What do you consistently take for granted?


Yeah, that sentence causes some anxiety. I get it. We all take some things in life for granted. The universe puts me in situations over and over again. I want to believe it hopes one day the lightbulb will turn on and stay on, so I don’t have to feel shitty about certain shortcomings again and again.

Write about what you seem to take for granted in your life consistently. Instead, start taking these new aspects of your life for granted. Train yourself to start feeling positive about yourself. Express your self-worth, self-esteem, and the virtues of good moral character you possess. Be grateful for who you are today.
You can use your gratitude journal for honest self-reflection and spend time honoring what you fail to be thankful for each day. 



When I decided to start journaling again, I chose to be more mindful and consistent. I made gratitude journaling a habit I practice to this day. It is incorporated into my system for recovery. It takes about 15 minutes tops. 

Even though the exercise is only 15 minutes long, in the beginning, it was challenging to make myself do it with consistency. It has now become a habit. I follow the pattern listed above and one day a week. I pick three entries from my journal archives and dive deep into why I am grateful, how it makes me feel. I try to incorporate my 5 senses into the exercise.

I’m starting to see positive changes in my attitude towards myself, my husband, and others in the community. I am less angry, more relaxed, and have an overall positive outlook on life. As far as my recovery is concerned – Gratitude journaling helps me stay focused on working my system for recovery. In gratitude journaling, I have learned to forgive myself and stop regretting my past. I appreciate those who have helped me along the way, but I still have work to do, lessons to learn, so I can help guide others in their recovery journey.

Are you ready to start gratitude journaling and 10X your happiness?

What’s keeping you from starting a gratitude journal? Let me know in the comments section below. 

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