Journaling Joy

I have an idea: how about we keep a daily log about the good moments in our lives? You know, like a pain journal, except noting what makes us smile/feel well, instead of noting pain whenever it happens. Use levels if you want, like the 1-10 pain scale. In this case, 1=miserable and 10=being as joyful and Dorothy when she realized she was back in Kansas.

Journaling to log RA symptoms

See, I’m always reading about/being exhorted to keep a daily rheumatoid disease symptoms log, either through a website, or an app on my phone, or even on paper in a notebook.

Logs help us track and notice patterns

It’s true that keeping such logs can help you keep track of how often, when, and how much you hurt, etc., from day to day and week to week. They work even better if you also track your exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress levels.

And this is excellent knowledge to have. You might start to notice patterns: you hurt more, for instance, if you haven’t moved your bod much today. Or maybe you flared within a day or so of eating that tasty pizza instead of a nutritious, lower-carb meal. You might correlate more pain along with not getting enough sleep, or being under some extra stress.

Logs can prompt lifestyle changes

You can use that info to adjust your lifestyle, and if they work, yay! You can also take it to your primary care provider or your rheumatologist. It may help them understand how they can better and more efficiently treat your RD. And hopefully, it’ll make them a little more empathetic.

Reading a log of my symptoms affects my mood

The thing is, I’ve personally never been able to keep such logs longer than a few weeks. I’m a die-hard optimist (you knew that, right?), so seeing my daily pain, fatigue, and other symptoms laid out like that just plain ol’ flat out rains on my parade.

It makes me feel like a whiner

Not only that, but noting my pain and its level from moment to moment makes me feel like a world-class whiner.

Of course, I know better. I don’t whine (at least, not very much or very often). Nevertheless, those logging apps make me feel bad, so it’s not long before I abandon them. I have several, right now, lying on my desk and cluttering up my laptop and phone.

Tracking my symptoms while being aware of my mood

So, instead of logging everything, I just jot/type notes. I might write “lots of pain this week” or (more often) I’ll scribble down questions to ask my doctor next time I see her: “Will taking more gabapentin help relieve my pain?”

It works for me. It also gives me a list of notes and questions that I’d most certainly forget if I didn’t have them with me at my appointment.

Writing about and logging good moments

But I digress (as usual). What about my idea? How about logging the good moments in your day instead of the bad ones and assigning them a joy level?
Here’s an example:

  • I wake up. Before I get out of bed, though, I spend a few minutes assessing my body and stretching my muscles carefully while I’m still relaxed and warm from sleep. I keep my notebook (or phone, if that works better for you) on my nightstand, so I jot down “Stretched well A.M.” under that day’s date. Joy level: 5. I did myself a favor—and I’m going to pat myself on the back for it.
  • Next: “Drive to work was bumper-to-bumper but a nice person held back and let me nose into his lane so I could exit. I waved!” Joy level: 7. Or “I just encountered the cutest little dog! I want one!” Joy level: 4
  • At lunchtime: I ate a salad with sliced chicken breast and a little low-fat dressing instead of the fat ham-and-cheese sub and chips I really wanted. My log entry: “Tasty salad w/chix today.” Joy level: 3
  • Mid-afternoon: “For my break today, I walked around the block, saw the most gorgeous convertible!” Joy level: 5. Or “I just saw and heard a flock of whooping cranes flying overhead. So beautiful, their voices so haunting. Smiling.” Joy level: 7.
  • Dinner-time: “My spouse noticed my hands were hurting and cooked dinner tonight.” Joy level: 9. And “I washed the dishes afterward, and the warm water felt delicious on my hands!” Joy level: 6
  • Later: “I had the best bubble bath while spouse put the kids to bed.” Joy level: 8.

Writing about good moments helps us cope

You get my drift, here? If something good happens, or you see something that makes you laugh, smile, or just feel good, make a note of it and give it a joy-number. You don’t have to show anyone if you don’t want to. But like the pain/symptom log, I think after a while you’ll start to notice patterns.

Tracking good things can lift our spirits

Noticing and logging the good stuff each day will get easier. You even might find that keeping track of the good things in your days lifts your spirits and makes it easier for you to cope when the ol’ rheuma-dragon inevitably saps your energy and gnaws on your knuckles and knees.

I believe that anything we can do to make our lives more joyful is well worth doing. So if you decide to keep a “good stuff” log, do let me know in comments. Maybe we can compare notes!

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