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10 Tips to Discover the Positive Power of Journaling

By Gay Falkowski

Sometimes, finding better days begins by looking to the past. When you keep a daily journal chronicling your life with MS, you create a valuable resource that can help you improve your outlook and make wise decisions for the future.  

Journaling is a unique form of self-expression. Intimate and secure, it captures feelings, frustrations, fears, and even triumphs that may not be easily shared out loud. Many people say that journaling gives them a sense of power and control — something hard to come by when dealing with all the uncertainty MS brings to your life. 

A journal can also record important clues about your MS. Reading back through your journal, you may notice patterns  — things that triggered good feelings and others that triggered negative ones, such as fatigue. Armed with this knowledge, you might be able to make changes that can reduce or even eliminate many of the negatives.

Journaling can help keep track of new symptoms, how symptoms have progressed, and victorious moments if symptoms heal. Nothing is guaranteed with MS, for now it’s an unpredictable disease, but a journal may show patterns of predictability. 

Another benefit to journaling, especially for individuals who have memory issues (a common problem), is that your journal becomes a handy reference for important dates, such as doctor appointments, when you started a new medication, when you receive an important phone call. 

Don’t be surprised if your doctor is impressed as you use your journal to improve communication when you go to your appointments. Well-informed with the records you’ve kept in your journal, you'll be prepared to answer questions about your recent MS experiences and can participate more fully in managing your MS. You’re empowered! 

Are you ready to write? Here are 10 easy tips to help you create and maintain a journal that could be an important guidepost to better days:

1) First, decide on what you’ll use for your journal. Popular choices include journals with artistic covers, inexpensive wire bound notebooks, journaling applications, or documents stored in a computer file. Choose the one you’ll be most comfortable writing in.

2) Make your journal easy to access, and set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the end of each day to make an entry. Don’t get hung up on grammar or spelling … just let the words flow. No one but you will see it, unless you choose to share.

3) Write about the good and bad elements of your day. If you’re in the mood for some self-reflection, write about choices you made. Could you have done things differently? Would it have changed the outcome?

4) Try and include at least one expression of gratitude with each entry. Reminding ourselves of the positives in our lives helps us keep a balanced perspective.

5) Don’t limit yourself to words. If you feel like illustrating your entry, do it! No one’s judging.

6) Record environmental factors, such as the weather. Include air quality, humidity, barometer, and allergens. Over time, you may be able to look at the daily forecast and predict how the weather might affect you. When you can prepare for change, you’re likely to feel less stress and fear.

7) What kinds of activities did you do during the day? Note the type of activity, along with its duration, and intensity. How did it make you feel? In addition to physical activities, include social activities such as visiting with friends, or solitary activities such as reading.

8) Document everything that goes in your body. List the foods and fluids you consume, along with medications and natural remedies. Keep track of all disease-modifying drugs, including a history of injection sites and negative physical reactions to medications. Writing about your medication each day helps remind you to take it.

9) Report pain: Time/date, location, duration, and description (stabbing, aching, etc.) Using a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the worst) rate the pain. What made it better? What made it worse?

10) Don’t be deterred by relapses. Though journaling during a relapse can be challenging, the information you record during this time can be an important resource during future relapses. You’ll be able to look back and review how your body reacted to steroids and physical therapy. You’ll see the milestones achieved on your journey to recovery. You’ll be reminded of your strength and perseverance as you search for better days.