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Can Keeping a Journal Can Help You Feel Better?

separator When you think about keeping a journal to help with your diabetes, writing down lots of numbers probably comes to mind. And that’s a good idea. Writing down your A1C numbers, your daily blood sugar numbers, your food intake, your exercise patterns and your symptoms gives you a good perspective on what’s going on with your diabetes over a period of time. It can help you to see exactly how your food and exercise choices directly affect your blood sugar, which in turn gives you a sense of control over your condition. 

Keeping track of your numbers can also be invaluable because sometimes, your body changes even though you haven’t changed your routines. If the numbers in your journal begin to change, that gives you an early signal to talk with your doctor about what else you might need to do to keep your blood sugar under control, such as starting medication or modifying your food plan. 

Writing about emotions may also help
But there’s also some indication that writing about your emotions—especially about stressful events—can help with your diabetes. Some people find it therapeutic to write about their feelings, to put their wishes, hopes and fears down on paper. It gives them insight into what’s really going on. And sometimes, when you allow your thoughts to tumble out freely, you may find that you’ve been having feelings that you hadn’t acknowledged until now. That can be beneficial, because you can’t begin to handle your feelings if you don’t know they exist. 

Several years ago, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers published a study about people with mild to moderate asthma and rheumatoid arthritis who wrote about stressful life experiences. After four months, the patients with asthma experienced an improvement in lung function compared to a control group of patients who did not take part in the writing and showed no improvement at all. The study participants who had rheumatoid arthritis experienced a reduction in the severity of their disease, while the control group experienced no change. 

The researchers in the study did acknowledge that they weren’t sure whether this type of writing would help people with other chronic conditions. But there’s no reason not to give it a try if it interests you. 

How should you start?
The beauty of journal writing is that there are no rules. You can write whatever comes into your mind, without worrying about how it will sound. You can choose a time of day that works best for you. You can write with a pen and paper or you can type.

If you’re interested in getting some help from a book, try The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, or Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg. These books can give you sound advice about how to write about your emotions and feelings.

Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999.
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