As we near the end of the year, people start to reflect on the past 12 months and make goals for a happier and healthier 2019. These resolutions are usually focused on things we want to improve on, so it’s no surprise that dropping some pounds tops the list of the most common goals.
As Inc. reports, Statistic Brain made a list of the top ten New Year’s resolutions last year, and “lose weight/healthier eating” clocked in at number one.
Resolutions tend to get a bad rap, since people are likely to forget them a week or two into January. However, a productive step to achieving a goal of a healthier (and lighter) lifestyle is to commit to a health journal.
In addition, practitioners may require patients to keep a health journal for a given amount of time to help identify issues, track treatment progress, or just get a better understanding of the person’s day-to-day activities.
Whatever the reasons behind starting a physical or mental health journal, it’s something that patients should be encouraged to do—both for the insight it provides to physicians and to gain a little self-awareness about personal habits.
Rise of Journaling
You may associate journaling with a young or teenage girl’s diary (when a crush on so-and-so is the center focus), but journaling has actually been around since the birth of the written word, when ancient travelers would chronicle their journeys.
So you have to wonder why we are encouraged to keep a diary when we are younger (whether by a teacher, parent, or counselor), but then it falls to the wayside as we grow older.
True, journaling takes time. Whether you jot down your thoughts when you first wake up or sit down to recap the day in the evening, taking a moment to actually stop moving isn’t something that adults think they have time to do.
However, with self-care and mental health being more open topics these days, many find solace in writing down thoughts, feelings, and activities. Plus, studies have shown that keeping a journal can have many positive effects on one’s life.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling can be helpful in not just recording your health, but also making you healthier! After all, writing in a journal is inherently an organizational act, and we all know that feeling organized can have a direct correlation to reduced stress.
There are other benefits, too. As this piece in The New York Times points out: “Scientific studies have shown it to be essentially a panacea for modern life. There are the obvious benefits, like a boost in mindfulness, memory and communication skills. But studies have also found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence and a higher I.Q.”
It can also help you stay focused on those pesky little resolutions we talked about earlier. As a Huffington Post contributor noted, “Writing goals signals to your brain “this is important.” Your reticular activating system (RAS) then flags relevant opportunities and tools to achieve that goal. More detailed goals provide a psychological blueprint, and increases the likelihood of achieving them.”
And, like anything else, if you do something regularly, it can start to develop into a habit. Whether it’s working towards those goals you’ve set for yourself, being more mindful of your eating habits, or challenging yourself to get a certain amount of exercise in each week, getting in the habit of tracking your activities and emotions can help you build healthier habits.
Best Times to Journal
Finding the right time to journal your thoughts and feelings might seem intuitive: If I’m a morning person, then taking some time to write first thing in the morning is best, right?
Not so fast, according to some research done by a curious blogger. Science actually tells us that the opposite is true when it comes to writing in an effort to solve problems or think creatively.
According to his findings, when your mind is tired it becomes less focused. Though that can seem like a negative, it actually gives you more space to see different angles and possible outcomes. Therefore, if you are writing for this purpose (as opposed to just chronicling events and habits), it might make the most sense to do your writing in the evening if you are a morning person, and in the morning if you are a night owl.
Different activities like exercise and driving can also help provide us with opportunities to enjoy a clearer, wider mindset. So it may be worth your while to take advantage of these times of days as well.
In the end, the best time to journal will depend on you and your individual preferences, as well as your overall reason for journaling in the first place.
It’s also important to note how you prefer to journal. Some people like to sit down with a lined notebook and pen or pencil, while others prefer to keep a fluid document on their laptop. Some (us included) may even keep a stream of conscience going in the Notes app on their iPhone. This ensures that you can jot down ideas, antidotes, or reminders on the go.
IntakeQ & Health Journals
Aside from encouraging patients to keep health journals for increased awareness and de-stressing, it can also be an important component of knowing when and how to treat the patient.
Depending on your specialty, assigning a patient with some health journal “homework” can be very helpful in how you approach their care.
Say you are a nutritionist. It can be difficult to have an appointment with a patient and ask them to remember everything they’ve eaten in the past week. Let’s be honest; with so much going on in our busy daily lives, we sometimes forget what we ate for breakfast that very morning!
But, by asking them to log everything they eat in the week leading up to the appointment, you’ll have a much better sense of their nutrition habits and the kind of foods they are ingesting each day.
This allows the patient to take only a minute or two to jot down their meals and snacks throughout the day, leaving less room for human error. It can also open their eyes to some unhealthy behaviors they may be displaying.
And, with IntakeQ, you can not only send your patient a customized journal to fill out, but you can also set it up for automated daily delivery. This way, the patient receives a new notification with the day’s food journal to fill out each morning.
Plus, it takes the responsibility off of your staff to create and send these journal reminders. With IntakeQ, they only need to enter the parameters around the patient’s journaling request and the rest is handled by the system.
This can be used in whatever way works best for you and your practice. Maybe you need the patient to make a weekly entry about their thoughts and feelings, or perhaps you need a more detailed snapshot of the patient’s exercise routines or times that they take their medications. You can chose the time and frequency that a patient will receive their digital journal and not have to worry about it again.
In addition, using digital forms gives the patient the option to fill out the journal electronically, which greatly helps in entering information into a patient’s history quickly and accurately.
It’s no wonder that journaling is on the rise; with so many potential benefits—for both the mind and body—it’s a great habit to pick up.
Plus, as a practitioner, it can provide you with more detailed and honest information about a patient and their behaviors. This allows you to identify problems more easily and help structure an appropriate plan of action.
Feel free to reach out to learn more about IntakeQ’s new health journal capabilities.