Daily review journal questions
June 8, 2015 10:27 AM   Subscribe

I keep track of some basic 'quantified self' info by hand, and I'd like to add one or more prompts to help me both track and improve my wellbeing. Gratitude journal prompts are one (maybe not perfect) example - what else could I look at?

I'm keeping a daily log while I try out new medications to help me notice any changes, patterns, or effects I might not otherwise spot. Currently I note meds, food, tea/coffee/alcohol/water intake, sleep, and results from the physical activity and phone usage logs my smartphone keeps, as well as a brief general note on what I did during the day. I'd like to add something to this routine that's more introspective/proactive, to hopefully have a positive effect on my wellbeing. What could I notice and track, or what questions could I pose to myself?

Gratitude journaling is the canonical example, and one of the points I'd like to add to my daily review list might indeed be something like "three things I'm grateful for about today". It's widely said to help encourage a more grateful, positive outlook as you practise it day to day, though some findings indicate the potential for burnout if done too often. I'm wondering what other prompts I could try out that might be thought-provoking, useful, interesting - and what would be most likely to make a difference, perhaps.

I'm currently feeling fairly low, and struggling to see the wood for the trees when thinking about the kinds of questions I could ask. I'd love to hear any thoughts on this, whether or not you use them yourself. I look forward to experimenting with any ideas - and I'll update in a couple of months with how things are going. I'm keen to change something right now.
posted by lokta to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I only used this once for a few months, but it did get me out of a rut and got me out of feeling a bit blue.

I will not list the specific challenge, but if you want, feel free to memail me, but I think the exercise will suffice without it.

So let's say you have identified a barrier; perhaps you feel you can't do things alone and they won't be fun.

So on the top of a piece of paper, write that title/belief (Can't do activities alone, no fun).

Now pick an activity that sounds fun to you. Maybe it is a meetup with strangers. Maybe it is hiking in the woods.

In the left column, predict how much fun you think you would have doing your selected activity alone (1 = sucks, 5=meh, 10 = so much fun your head exploded).

So let's say you predict it won't be much fun and assign 3. Write all your reasons in the left hand column.

Now go on the activity. As soon as you come back, write down your new score in the right hand column. Maybe it was a 7 or 8. Look at your reasons in the left hand column, and address/reframe them in the right. Add new reasons why trying activities alone is fun.

I did this for a few months, and am okay going to activities alone again. Sometimes I even prefer it. But it helped me at a dark time to have an entire sheet filled with examples, scores, and reflective thoughts on how I was letting this barrier/skewed perspective interfere with my life.
posted by Wolfster at 10:45 AM on June 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

I find that I'm uplifted when I take time to attend to beautiful things and moments. That's most available from natural creatures and environments - just going to the park to hear and see birds and water is great, for me - but exposure to fractal patterns in both green and built things is apparently calming. if your eyes happen to fall upon something rewarding, that's lucky and worth recording, imo, but you can also go to reliable sources.

Noticing little moments that happen between people as you go about helps you feel connected, in some way (for me at least), even if those moments aren't always so happy in themselves.

I haven't approached this systematically, but it would be interesting to see what came of a column for "things observed while walking".
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:57 AM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

this is something I've been meaning to do (and am just a lazy schmoo) - you know how most people make "to-do lists", right? Why not a daily "I-did" list?

I thought that up on a day when I was kicking myself for not having done more towards my writing on a particular day and was feeling like I'd been lazy - but then realized that "wait a minute, what about all those cooking and housekeeping projects I did in the morning? Or that walk I took?"

You know? Rather than focusing on the things that you should be doing, take a moment to acknowledge the things you did do; if you're feeling lazy it can help you realize that maybe you weren't, and also can give you a sense of accomplishment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:58 AM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Not sure if this qualifies but I have a "Q&A a Day" journal that asks a different question every day and has a short space to record your answer. Mine is a 5-year journal, so there are 5 spaces for each of the 366 (one for leap years) questions, so you can see how your answers change over time. It's fun and not too taxing as a daily obligation! You can get a variety of them on Amazon.
posted by Otter_Handler at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm constantly recommending IDoneThis to people, like EmpressCallipygos suggests it's an 'I-did' list maker. You send an email at the end of the day (or, every couple of days/weeks, whenever you want) of what you've done. This can be anything - it doesn't have to be achievements, it could be lovely things that happened or memories you want to preserve - but I do find it weirdly incentivising to finish something just so I can add it to the tally. You end up with a calendar of what you got done over time, and it's a good confidence boost.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 3:07 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Optimism is a pretty good one. It has a bunch of scales of which most or all can be edited, and a section for notes. You can also graph the data over time.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 3:28 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ben Franklin used a checkoff table in his quest for virtue, and practiced daily contemplation of a primary virtue each week while still working on ticking off the other 12 or so. (Technically he ticked off failures to observe one of the 13 virtues that day.)

So, tick marks and rotating virtues besides gratitude might be easier and more productive than writing out long daily notes on only gratitude.

There's many many codified lists of virtues if you want material to roll your own; Tibetan Buddhist, Franklin, Prussian warmonger, etc.

Currently I note meds, food, tea/coffee/alcohol/water intake, sleep, and results from the physical activity and phone usage logs my smartphone keeps, as well as a brief general note on what I did during the day.

Consider adding exposure to sunlight/SAD lamp during the daytime and exposure to blue light from screens at night if you're concerned about mood and sleep. Maybe also media consumption.

You might look at a fitness band to log physical activity, sleep, heartrate, and so on. The Fitbit Charge HR looks good.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:11 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

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