It's especially critical if you have a chronic illness.

By Naomi Barr
October 01, 2020
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Getty / Mayur Kakade

Keeping a journal is useful for anyone who wants to eat or exercise more mindfully. When you're dealing with a chronic health condition, such as migraines or diabetes, jotting down what you feel daily can bring even bigger benefits. Log your symptoms, moods, diet, and physical activity, then share your journal with your doctor at your next appointment—it can help guide your treatment and even prevent costly (and unnecessary) exploratory exams and tests.

Apprehensive about opening your diary to your doctor? Don't be. "Sharing journal entries during a doctor appointment is certainly helpful and appropriate," affirms Noelle Reid, MD, a doctor specializing in family medicine at Trinity Health and Wellness Medical Group. "It allows for better communication with your doctor in a more organized manner, sets the tone for the appointment, and affords you the ability to present multiple issues within one visit, as well as prioritize concerns."

These notes could uncover patterns you may be able to address even before that visit, such as a food or activity that triggers a headache. But consistency is key to finding any red flags, which means you need to make journaling symptoms and food logs part of your everyday routine, adds Dr. Reid. "Adopting any healthy habit requires consistency, and this includes journaling. Entering health information into a journal, especially for chronic conditions, should be done daily," she notes.

She suggests designating a specific time of day for this practice ("Choose a time before or after your active hours. Settling into a quiet and calm place creates a better scenario for getting it done and detailing your experience best," advises Dr. Reid) and selecting a time limit that is feasible in the long term—between 10 and 30 minutes is a good goal, she adds. Need a little help getting started? When writing, ask yourself what you've done or felt "since waking up today." Researchers have found that study respondents are more accurate and detailed when given that prompt, as opposed to "during the last 24 hours."

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