Keeping a Thought Log

Where we set our mind make a tremendous difference—and, in fact the most important freedom we have is what we will pay attention to. This practice involves setting aside a week to keep a log of what you think about, and for how long. Doing this gives a much better picture of what actually draws your attention and makes you more aware of thought habits you’ve formed. The purpose is not morbid introspection; the results aren’t meant to depress you, but rather help you be informed and effective in the ways you go about pursuing God in your daily life. For more from the Bible, look at 2 Cor. 10:5; Psalm 139:23-42; Isaiah 55:7; Deuteronomy 15:9; Phil. 4:8-9.

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To begin with—this practice is best done with a group, one you can be honest with and feel safe in. Discussing with a group is helpful because you recognize how common your struggles are, and because you can encourage one another with the Gospel. It is strongly recommended that you at least have a partner to do this with! This practice works well when done for a period of about a week. You are attempting to discover habits you may not be aware of, and to see these things written down on paper helps make them real and approachable. A week is a good length of time—long enough to get past being self-conscious about the practice. Get a notebook or pad of paper that can go with you throughout your day. Then, set general times when you will pause to reflect. There’s no need to do a moment-by-moment entry of your thoughts; nor do you need to capture every specific thought. Rather, we’re looking for general topics: God, work, family, worrying, lusting, food, so on and so forth. It works best for some people to split the day into 3-hour chunks, and pause to reflect and record thoughts then. When it comes time to reflect, write down whatever topics of thought you are able to remember from the last few hours, and about how long the thought was in your mind. For example: Food Work Loneliness Worry briefly 30 min 45 min 30 min

And so on. You can jot other notes down, but it’s not necessary to write reflections or analyze the thoughts. The point is to get a sense of how much your mind tends to focus on various things. Later on, after you are finished with the log, you can begin to consider why or analyze the patterns. Once you are done with the week, gather with your partner(s) and discuss what you discovered. Begin, first and foremost, with a reminder of God’s mercy. These things are difficult to share, so it’s essential that the foundation of your discussion be an understanding that all is forgiven! (For example, you might read some passages like Ephesians 2:1-10, etc.) Also, your group must affirm its commitment to keep what is shared confidential and to listen in a spirit of love and acceptance. Each person must feel that it is safe to speak honestly. Your group members should each verbally affirm their commitment. Now, discuss: What kinds of things did you dwell on the most? Were there any surprises? What did you learn about yourself? You may want to begin to process the reason your mind tended to go in certain directions. You might find it helpful also to take your thought log with you for some time of prayer—talk with God about what you have discovered, and ask for His input.

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