How keeping a journal could change your life

By YOU
18 March 2017

Fitness journal, weight-loss journal, gratitude journal – here's how to do them all.

Writing down how you feel, what you’re doing and even what’s for dinner can help boost your happiness and well-being. But to get the best results you should tailor what you write to the goals you’re trying to achieve. Here are five ideas to try.

Weight-loss journal

Recording in a journal what and how much you eat and drink – and checking kilojoules and nutrients accordingly – can help to keep you on track. In one study participants who kept a journal lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. To make it really work you should:

FILL IN BEFORE YOU EAT

Writing down what you’re about to eat can help you make a better choice (if you need to) before damage is done. A food diary forces you to evaluate every choice you make, so you can use it to make positive changes in your eating behaviour.

RECORD WHO YOU’RE WITH

It can help you to become aware of patterns – sometimes our eating habits change around certain people. You might have a friend who tells you to cheat “just this once” every time you see them. If you notice patterns like these, you can plan strategies to combat them, such as meeting that friend at a place where there’s no temptation.

ADD PICTURES OF YOURSELF

Including images in a weight-loss plan increases motivation, Spanish scientists have found. “It’s very gratifying to literally see yourself get slimmer over time,” Mercedes Rizo Baeza of the University of Alicante says. NOTE WHAT YOU’VE DONE THAT DAY One recent study found people often treat themselves more on gym days because they feel they deserve it.

Gratitude journal

The simple exercise of noting things you’re grateful for can help improve your levels of happiness. Simply make a note of three good things that happened or three things you’re grateful for each day. To make it work for you, try this:

THINK SMALL SOMETIMES

It’s doesn’t have to be big stuff – you don’t get major joys such as a new job or pay rise every day. So consider basic things you might even take for granted. Having hot water or enough to eat, for example, are things to be appreciated.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO REPEAT THINGS

Don’t panic if you struggle to come up with new things to be grateful for. Keep in mind that often it’s the same things that make us happy each day. If you see repetition, use it as a reminder of what truly makes you happy and try to incorporate more of it into your life.

GET A BEAUTIFUL BOOK AND PEN

Make journalling feel like a treat, not a chore. Instead of making notes on your smartphone, write your thoughts down with a pen or pencil in a special notebook. STICK WITH IT Even if you can find only one or two things to write at first, keep at it. The more you do it, the more good things you’ll see.

Fitness journal

Writing your exercise sessions in your diary like appointments makes it more likely you’ll stick to your workout regimen, so try to do this at the beginning of each week. To make a really big difference, try this:

USE POWER WORDS

“You need to state your workout intentions each day,” says Lyndelle Palmer Clarke, author of the Daily Greatness Training Journal. “And it’s important to start intentions with the words ‘I am.’ So write down, ‘I am going to do x, y, z.’ This directs your energy and focus and helps make them a reality.”

NOTE HOW YOU FEEL AFTER EACH WORKOUT

Energy levels and mood play a huge role in motivating you to exercise, so tracking them can help you to work out which exercises make you feel good and the best time/days for your sessions, experts say. You should also examine any negative feelings that might have come up – if you were too tired to work hard, for example, perhaps you need a snack before you exercise.

EXPLORE FAILURES

“Focusing only on the positive limits your ability to achieve your goals,” Palmer Clarke says. “Acknowledge issues such as, ‘What triggered me to skip my training session today?’ Use the answers to make adjustments.” HAVE A SUNDAY CHECK-IN Every Sunday review your exercise for the week. What worked last week, what didn’t and how can you change what didn’t work? Also use this time to reread your first entries now and then. Looking in the rear-view mirror gives you a chance to see how far you’ve come.

Allergy journal

If you suspect certain foods are behind health concerns such as bloating or headaches, keeping a food/allergy diary can help you to identify triggers. But to get the best from your food/allergy journal you need to:

RECORD EVERY MOUTHFUL

Even that grape you sampled while shopping could have an effect, so you really do need to make a note of everything that passes your lips – even chewing gum. Because we don’t technically eat gum, we tend to think it doesn’t count but gum contains additives and sweeteners that can affect digestion and cause symptoms. Also note what time you ate, what symptoms you feel and the time of the symptoms – a food intolerance can appear up to 48 hours after you’ve eaten a trigger food.

RECORD YOUR FEELINGS

Emotions – stress in particular – have a huge effect on digestion. It’s possible to think you have a food intolerance when what you actually have is indigestion caused by rushed eating and feeling stressed and anxious. Making a note of your emotions can help you to recognise such a pattern.

DON’T HAVE PRECONCEIVED IDEAS

Perhaps you think you’re intolerant to gluten so you want to keep a diary to prove it. But it’s important to keep an open mind. You may very well pick up a problem related to bread but look at the whole picture – it might be because you’re eating sandwiches while rushing at work rather than the result of an intolerance. That’s also why you should . . . SHOW YOUR DIARY TO A DIETICIAN OR NUTRITIONIST A professional will be able to spot triggers you might not have thought of and might also pick up on something you need to exclude from your diet and advise you about good replacements.

Emotion journal

Writing about your feelings doesn’t just improve mental health, it’s been linked to improved immunity, less pain and faster healing. To get the most out of it, try to:

HAVE A SET WRITING TIME

Ideally write for 15 to 20 minutes three to four days running to get the ball rolling. This should give you enough time to explore whatever is going on in your mind fully. If there’s something in particular you need to work through, it’s okay to go a bit longer, but generally it’s better to start and stop at a set time, leaving anything unwritten until the next session.

TELL A STORY

Some people find that free-flow writing about difficult experiences or things bothering them cause them to dwell on the negative. But US researchers say writing a story about what happened with a clear beginning, middle and end reduces this risk.

EDIT YOUR STORY, CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Simply ranting doesn’t have positive benefits. Instead you need to examine the situation, explore it from different angles and look at what it’s taught you.

EXPECT TO FEEL SOMETHING

It’s not unusual to feel sad or depressed after journaling. Like seeing a sad movie, this typically goes away in a few hours. But if you’re getting very upset while writing about a particular subject, stop writing for that day or change the topic.

Find Love!

Men
Women