With the New Year “write” around the corner it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to accomplish in the coming year. Not surprisingly, many people choose to take this time of year to focus on improving their overall health. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to assess your health needs is to create a daily personal health and wellness journal. This journal can help you to understand your current health status and inspire improvements to better your overall health. Research has shown that individuals who write about traumatic, stressful and emotional events are more likely to have improvements in physical and emotional health than those who do not.
Combine these experiential writings with a log of other daily events such as what you’ve eaten during the day, how you feel, time slept, sleep quality, medications/vitamins/supplements taken that day, physical activity and overall mood, you have the makings of a personal wellness journal that can help you discover causes or correlations among behaviors, symptoms and health issues. These findings can help you assess your current health and help you form goals on where you would like to be in the coming New Year.
Short Term & Long Term Benefits to Consider of Journaling
- Identify personal habits
- Identify potential allergens/sensitivities
- Personal growth and development
- Problem solving
- Stress reduction
- Better diet
- More frequent exercise
- Improved working memory
- Reduced number of visits to general practitioner or health center
10 Tips for Successful Journaling
- Commit to a journaling schedule
- Keep your notebook or journal where you won’t miss it
- Try using email or calendar reminders so you don’t forget
- Write in a private place, free from distractions
- Stay organized
- Keep it short
- Keep it fun and interesting
- Don’t worry about being perfect – write what comes naturally to you
- Make time for some reflection
- Reward yourself!
How to Keep a Health Journal
There are pre-made health journals that you can use to keep yourself organized, but don’t worry, a general spiral notebook will also work just fine. To start, be sure to note the date and day of the week. You can record your blood pressure and sugar level if necessary, along with weight and body temperature. It is best if these are recorded at the same time each day. Record the total amount of sleep you had for that day including naps. You can also record the number of times you woke up during the night and your overall sleep quality.
Since many individuals feel that their health is affected by changes in the weather, you can note the temperature for the day along with any present weather patterns (such as sunny, cloudy, humid, rainy, snowy, windy, etc.). Log any medications you took as well as any over-the-counter items and vitamins, herbs or supplements. Indicate the brand name, the type of medication or supplement and the dosage or strength. As you get comfortable with journaling, you can simply write “same as usual” to save time and only make notes when changes occur. You should also write down any physical activity that you performed that day, including walking, running, weight training or even vigorous housework, gardening, dancing, etc.
Take note to any pain or discomfort that you feel throughout the day. You can log the area where the pain occurs and number it on a scale of 1-10 in terms of its severity (1 being very mild, 10 being severe). Sometimes pain occurs at the same time of the day, so be sure to take note if this happens. In addition to pain and discomfort, you can also note any symptoms that you felt throughout the day. These may include fatigue, nausea, gas, bloating, watery eyes, diarrhea, heart palpitations, constant hunger, etc. Focus on all the areas of the body (from your head all the way down to your feet) and don’t forget to include any mental or emotional symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, sadness or anger. You may also want to rate the symptom severity and take note to what time of day they occurred. If you notice any rashes, bruises, bites or other skin conditions take note of these and log them as well.
Finally, log your diet for the day including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Feel free to note the amount of calories, fat, sodium, protein, sugar and other nutritional information consumed at each meal. Also log your water consumption throughout the day. Keeping track of what you eat may help you discover trends in your day to day health to figure out if you are allergic or sensitive to certain food ingredients. For instance, every morning after drinking milk at breakfast you may have noticed excessive gas and diarrhea, which could identify lactose sensitivity. Leave a final section for comments or to include anything else that comes to mind. Congratulations, you’ve finished day one of your health journal!