Sometimes, it’s not until we are feeling ill or uncomfortable that we pay attention to what our bodies might be trying to tell us. When we are truly sick, there’s nothing else we can attend to; our bodies force us to stop, heal, and replenish.
Attentiveness to our bodies — and also to our minds, and hormones, and spirits — can pay wonderful dividends. A health journal is a wonderful tool that helps us track changes in our physical, emotional and spiritual experiences, possibly helping to pinpoint the sources of insomnia, distress, or pain. Additionally, if there is a family history of a particular health issue, journaling can help us to stay on top of genetic tendencies that we want to keep an eye on.
It’s not necessary to journal for all of the following categories, but what follows are ways to stay in tune with your body. Entries can be as short or long as you desire, but consistent entries will yield the most insight.
If you experience headaches, insomnia, or physical pain of any kind, keeping a journal of what you eat and what you do throughout the day may help uncover patterns or triggers that contribute to — or generate — that pain. Headache diaries are common, but with the influx of food sensitivities and dietary issues in our culture, tracking your responses to specific types of food (lactose, gluten, sugar) may be helpful as well. If you have chronic pain that flares with the weather, or allergies, consider noting those too.
Mental & Emotional
Our mental and emotional health are major factors in our overall health, and most of us know that feeling consistently depressed, anxious, or worried impacts our physical health, too. Journaling how we are feeling — and when those feelings flare or subside — can offer some insight into emotional patterns. Journaling can also be therapeutic in and of itself, as the act of writing down our thoughts often helps us gain clarity and perspective on the situation we find ourselves in.
As women, we know the power hormones can have in impacting our physical, mental, and emotional health. They play a large role not only during our periods, but in our lives as a whole. The basic of tracking our menstrual cycle is important; for women who hope to have children soon or down the road, knowing the rhythms of our cycle can better help us understand our fertility. Tracking our cycle also keeps us in tune with our bodies and aware of any unexpected changes, which should be discussed with a doctor.
Our spiritual lives both impact and are impacted by our physical, mental, and hormonal lives. If you consider yourself a spiritual person, consider noting how your spiritual life is growing or changing in your journal. It may overlap with your mental and emotional health, and you may also find that it overlaps with your physical or hormonal health. We are multi-faceted people, and for many of us, how we relate to God and how we understand the world — and our place in it — will deeply impact how we feel and how we interpret our lives.
After tracking any or all of these categories for a week, look back over your entries for patterns or, alternatively, changes. Do the same after two weeks, three weeks, and a month. If you consistently have headaches on the weekend, for example, is it because you’re not at the office drinking coffee and you have caffeine withdrawal? If it takes you an hour to fall asleep — even when you’re exhausted — is it because you’ve been watching a screen too close to bedtime?
Many things will not be simple to track, but a journal gives us something to work from and refer back to. And, as always, if you have any concerns, make sure to talk them over with your doctor. A health journal won’t fix anything in and of itself, but it offers more insight into what we are experiencing and how we might be able to move forward into fuller health, in every way.
Do you keep a health journal? What insights has it given you?
Image via Milena Mallory