Today I’d like to talk about one of my favorite health tools. No, it isn’t a stethoscope, a supplement, or a piece of exercise equipment. It’s a health journal, and by keeping one I’ve learned more about my body and its uniqueness than any other tool I’ve used.
I’ve talked a bit about health journals before, but I wanted to spend a little more time today discussing their usefulness. I started using a health journal last spring when I decided to really change up my diet in an effort to help resolve some issues that had been bothering me. I’d tried the supplement route, but just wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, so I finally had the motivation to make some big changes to my eating habits. For the first month or so I was pretty faithful about writing down what I ate, and how I felt during the day. It didn’t take me long, and I didn’t worry about precise measurements or calorie counting. I spent probably 5 minutes each night recalling what I had consumed during the day, and how my symptoms were doing. Even if I wasn’t sure something was related, I’d write it down. If I had a headache or difficulty sleeping, if my mind was racing or I felt anxious, I wrote it all down. After about a week some patterns were starting to emerge, and after 6 weeks I had some really solid information about how different foods were affecting my body. I have a hard time remembering what I ate yesterday or the day before, so trying to link symptoms to meals would have been very difficult for me if I hadn’t recorded it. As I learned my patterns and starting healing my gut, I stopped writing as much in the journal because I could now link a symptom to something I’d eaten that day or the day before. I knew what to look for.
But a health journal doesn’t have to just be about what you eat, you can record anything in there that you like. For example, maybe you want to see how exercise is affecting your mood. Record how you’re feeling that day, in however brief or verbose a fashion you choose. Then record your exercise and activities for the day, and over time, you’ll be able to track if your increased exercise is boosting your mood (exercise increases serotonin). Or, perhaps you’re struggling with infertility and want to keep track of your cycles in order to get a better understanding of your hormonal balance. Toni Weschler has written a great book entitled “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”. In it she describes exactly what charting is, how to do it, and what you can learn by recording and analyzing your body’s subtle cues. It’s an excellent resource that I’d highly recommend to anyone dealing with endometriosis, PCOS, infertility, etc.
Another great way to use a health journal is to jot down questions to ask the next time you go to your physician or meet with your health coach. You could record articles you saw online and want to read up on later, or anything that seems relevant to your health goals.
Remember, a health journal can be whatever you want it to be. The purpose is to give you a resource to gain insight into your own body and also provide you with a way to track your progress and encourage you to remember just how far you’ve come. I hope you find it as useful as I have!