Finding Meaning in Diabetes: How Journaling Can Help

A woman journaling for health | How to start journaling for diabetes | Benefits of journaling

Read time: 6 minutes

  • Journaling regularly about your health can improve memory, lower stress, make you more resilient, and decrease anxiety. 
  • Learn how to start journaling about your health with our step-by-step guide.
  • Download a free printable journal page with three journaling prompts and 24 self-care ideas. 
  • Living with diabetes or another chronic condition means living with a constant stream of data points. On any given day, you could be tracking your carbs, blood sugar levels, weight, A1C, cholesterol, and more. Having access to all this data can be a game changer in managing your health and help you make decisions for a healthier life, but this only works if you understand the meaning behind the data and investigate why things happened the way they did. 

    “Behind each blood sugar reading or data point, there’s a story. Journaling helps you find that story, process it, and learn from it,” says One Drop clinical health coach, Hanna, RDN, CDCES. Journaling—the practice of recording your thoughts, feelings, and reactions in writing—helps us bring order to confusing moments, celebrate wins, and remember important takeaways for the future. 

    Scroll down for a free printable journal page along with 24 self-care ideas to inspire you. 

    Benefits of Journaling About Your Health

    Living with a chronic condition is a perpetual learning process. As we deal with the ups and downs, journaling about our health can help us remember important lessons and learnings that will help us when we encounter the same situation again.

    “If someone has a really low blood sugar and they write about it, they may come to a realization in the moment that might help them in the future. Writing it down helps to solidify that piece of information, so they can access it again,” explains Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDCES, a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. “You’ve lived through the experience, but now you’re adding mental cues by journaling. The more mental cues you have, the easier it is to access a memory. Writing things down helps you remember your everyday events and going back and remembering how you felt can help you repeat them or avoid them.”

    Journaling about your health allows you to pause in a world full of multi-tasking. “In the modern day world, we’re getting notifications all the time. We don’t often get a chance to complete a thought,” says Hanna. “Answering the question ‘how did that happen?’ takes some time and journaling gives you the space to do that.”

    On top of improving memory and helping us make sense of what’s happening with our health, journaling brings about a slew of emotional benefits as well. Research shows that journaling may decrease depressive symptoms and anxiety after one month and increase resilience after one or two months.  

    How to Start Journaling 

    The hardest part about journaling is getting started and staying consistent. If you have a drawer full of half-used journals from past attempts at starting a journaling practice, you’re definitely not alone. 

    The beauty of journaling is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can journal if you have five minutes or five hours. You can journal using a dedicated diary, sticky notes, a tablet or computer, or even a voice memo. The best way to journal is the way that works best for you, so you can be consistent. 

    That said, if you’re not sure where to start, the idea of journaling can be daunting. We’ve put together a simple step-by-step guide for how to start journaling along with a free printable journal page to jumpstart your practice. 

    Step 1: Set aside 10-30 minutes before bed. 

    Bedtime is the perfect time for journaling. In the evening, your memories of the day are fresh, so you can record what happened, how you felt, and ideas for the future while they’re still present in your mind. Plus, research shows that journaling before bed about what you’d like to accomplish in the coming days can alleviate anxiety and help you fall asleep faster

    Step 2: Read your journal entry from the night before.

    Before you dive into the events of the day, take a minute to read your entry from the night before. “Rereading helps you intermix yesterday’s experiences with the new information you want to write about today,” explains LeBow. “Having read that past experience, you’re getting multiple exposures to the same information.” One of the benefits of journaling is solidifying memories and reinforcing new routines. By rereading the previous day’s entry, you’re more likely to remember what worked and what didn’t.  

    Step 3: Write.

    Now it’s time to put pen to paper. Staring at that blank page can be intimidating, so here are three journaling prompts that will give some structure to your new practice: 

    • What went well today?
    • What was today’s biggest challenge? What will I do differently next time this happens?
    • Three acts of self-care I’ll do for myself before tomorrow night.

    Humans are hardwired with a negativity bias, so when something upsetting happens, it can be easy to forget that positive things have happened, too. Intentionally journaling about what went well during the day can remind you that you’re taking positive steps for your health and that setbacks can be overcome. 

    Finishing your journaling session with a plan for self-care will help you find a sense of closure after reflecting on the day and give you something to look forward to tomorrow. Self-care could be as simple as appreciating a sunset, creating a mood board, or doing some gentle tai chi.     

    Scroll down for a free printable journal page along with 24 self-care ideas to inspire you. 

    Step 4: Repeat for 30 days. 

    You might feel some of the emotional benefits of journaling for health right away—decreased anxiety and lower stress are two of them. Or you might feel a little uncomfortable if this is the first time you’ve taken a close look at your emotions. But over the long-term, the benefits of journaling will likely outweigh any initial discomfort. 

    “I recommend doing your best to journal every day for 30 days. Consistency is important. If you can, try not to ask yourself after the first time, ‘how did I like this’” encourages Hanna. “Try it for 30 days before you make any judgment on whether you like it or not.”

    Creating a habit loop around journaling can help it become a natural part of your routine and not something you’re forcing yourself to do. 

    Write Away 

    “Today is a great day to start journaling,” says Hanna. “The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t help at all. That’s a pretty reasonable outcome.” 

    Wherever you are on your health journey, journaling can help you make sense of what's happening with your mind, body, and spirit. If you’re looking for extra support, consider reaching out to your One Drop clinical health coach. They’re ready to listen without judgment and connect you to mental health resources if you need them. 

    Free Printable Journal Page + 24 Self-Care Ideas

    Download our free printable journal page that includes the three prompts mentioned above as well as 24 self-care ideas to jumpstart your practice.

    This article has been clinically reviewed by Alexa Stelzer, RDN, LD, CDCES, clinical health coach at One Drop.

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    Sara Huneke
    Jan 30, 2023

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