Journaling. It’s become a big buzz word in the stress management and personal development communities over the last decade or so, but has been around for centuries. There are several health benefits to journaling and numerous ways to approach it. So many, in fact, I’ve created the Pray. Eat. Move Journal, Journal Guide and 7-Day Challenge (launching soon!) to jump-start your efforts to pray often, eat well and move more. I’m running a series of posts about different kinds of journaling, what it can do for you, how to do it, barriers people face (me included), as well as how journaling has personally worked for me.
So what exactly is journaling? According to Dictionary.com journal is a “daily record as of occurrences, experiences or observations; bookkeeping; a logbook.” And as a verb, “to write self-examining or reflective journal entries.” So, it’s a record, a log of what you’re feeling, experiencing, going through. Today I’m going to talk about a daily log or using lists to uncover patterns that empower you to make changes that honor your body and what it needs to thrive.
A Daily Log
If my clients are having trouble recalling how their new habits are making them feel, I’ll ask them to keep a daily log and pay attention to how their body responds as they change their habits. Questions I like them to answer are: What did you eat? How did you move your body? Did you make time for prayer? Did you sleep well? How did your body feel? Did you have lots of energy? Or did you have a headache? What time of day did you do these things?
Putting it into Action
You can create these lists using the Pray, Eat, Move Journal, especially prayer habits, food choices, movement, and your symptoms (positive and otherwise). These lists can take on a variety of forms:
- Separate columns
- Draw quadrants or sections (as the food choices will probably be much larger than the others combined).
- Use the Quote page, especially if you want more long-hand space
- You can also use the Pray. Eat. Move. Journal to hone in on the specific habit (praying often, eating well or moving more) you’re working on.
I like to use my Pray. Eat. Move. journal for more free-hand journaling and a smaller notebook for a daily log. However, I still use the check boxes at the bottom of the Pray. Eat. Move. journal page, feeling a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I am doing all I can to support my body, mind & spirit.
A daily log has been a very helpful tool (as I worked with a coach) as positive reinforcement while I develop new habits. I’ve noticed how much more productive I am when I pray 1st (and often throughout the day), as well as what I am praying for. Yes God likes to hear our pleas for help, but he also likes to hear our praises of love and thanksgiving for what he has blessed us with. Similar to our needs. It feels good to both give and receive. Noting these things helps shape my prayer habits.
A daily log was particularly useful in uncovering the many foods I’m allergic and/or sensitive to. Many food sensitivity symptoms can be delayed by 24-72 hours and can linger for several days before the body completely clears them, making culprits tough to discern. Our brains can only hold so much information, making it difficult to remember what I ate 3 days ago much less this morning. A daily log allows me to see (in black and white) when I felt great, and when I my energy drags, experience headaches, digestive issues, foggy thinking, poor sleep, etc. and correlate it with foods I ate. I easily spot when I am on the right track or where I need to pivot and take a different approach.
As far as movement goes, I’ve always felt fantabulous after an intense workout and a good sweat. However, during and after grad school (and about 10 years after my hysterectomy) this approach didn’t work so well for me. I started gaining weight (no matter how hard/long I worked out), not sleeping well, losing hair, slower digestion and much lower energy. I was over stressed and my hormones were out of whack. Keeping track and adjusting my movement habits have been key (among other interventions) on my journey back to better health and well-being. I had to slow down to more meditative movements and slowly incorporate some strength training and around-the-house (and acreage) cardio. I tolerate more physical exertion now, but am mindful not to overdo it as my energy can tank for a day or more after too much.
More on Journaling
Daily log journaling is all about paying attention to how your body responds to what you do (or don’t do). If you do it regularly, you’ll easily identify what works well for you and what doesn’t. It’s proof that you’re on the right track-especially when you can duplicate the results as you pinpoint specific causes (good or otherwise). I find it one of the best self-help tools to create lasting habits that serve you well. It only takes a few minutes every day and is a great place to start if you’re crunched for time. Keeping my daily log in plain sight invites me to use it, so I keep it on my island. For more on journaling, check out my free Guide to Journaling: Connect With God & Improve Your Health.