A good number of approaches to health and well-being focus on the use of a daily diary or journal. We’re urged to keep track of what we take in and what we put out. Or what we felt like when we did whatever it is that we did or didn’t do.
I was never a huge fan of the daily diary for myself. I personally found that I would record the achievement of something I wanted for a few days and then lose interest once I failed to achieve the thing.
For me, daily diaries became failure diaries.
And yet, I kept keeping track of things because keeping track of one’s self is a fun exercise. What other subject do you have so much information about? There’s no end to the types of information you can gather and make much ado over.
So I keep track of myself and my life in non-burdensome and manageable formats like lists, in bursts on scraps of paper or sticky notes where I just want to think about what I’m doing or what I plan to do. There’s not one book that holds all of my information. But there are a few notebooks and journals scattered about in my various bags, and now a bunch of electronic locations that hold information about where I’m going and how I’m getting there.
Perhaps not ironically for one trained as a lawyer, the greatest value in the information I keep has become its use as proof of what has happened. Why do I need proof? Well, one of the less fun habits resulting from my version of depression is catastrophization, which I’ve written about here before.
Catastrophizing is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing can generally can take two different forms: making a catastrophe out of a current situation, and imagining making a catastrophe out of a future situation.
On a day I’m feeling depressed, I have trouble remembering times I haven’t been depressed. On a day I’m feeling depressed, I can only remember being depressed and I can only foresee an entire lifetime of depression. So one day of feeling bad instantly becomes a lifetime of hell.
Luckily, I document my decent and good days now. I take pictures and write notes to myself describing what my brain says on days I’m feeling well. I borrowed the practice from a therapist who kept reading my own earlier statements to me when trying to prove to me I had felt well previously. It occurred to me that I could do what she did for me, a practice that was proving invaluable. I could show myself the truth about a prior time even if I couldn’t readily remember it or feel it.
I also document on my bad days too now. I document so that I can be reminded that many bad days are not as bad as I recall or fear. Some bad days are actually days when bad things happen and I end up handling those things really well, especially for someone deficient in Vitamin D.
Try it. Keep track of information about yourself and your day that you think might be helpful later in the week. Develop a dialogue with yourself. Use today’s experience to shape a better tomorrow.
And if something works, remember to document it.
If you had it, you can have it again.
Daily inspiration at GoComics/Reply-All-Lite