Last week I revealed this summer’s Small Step – Reflect, Revamp and Renew. Each of the three pieces is equally important. But one must thoroughly delve into the reflection component to revamp goals and to establish a renewed commitment to fitness in the most meaningful and relevant ways.
One of the best tools to use to investigate your unique obstacles to fitness and to discover clues to the types of fitness behaviors that best suit you is to keep a daily journal. You can read how this is true in “6 Ways Journaling Will Change Your Life” by CM Smith on Lifehack.
In addition, you may find that journaling for the purposes of fitness bleeds into helping you in other aspects of your life. Psychcentral.com has chronicled the scientifically proven health benefits, both physical and mental, of keeping a journal. Read about them here.
The Best Way to Journal
Many of us know this intrinsically even without reading studies to verify the claim. But, not all of us can find the motivation or time to begin and maintain this valuable habit. Knowing the journaling vehicle that best complements your lifestyle might help.
Most people might imagine a literal journal and pen – I know I do. But, a lot of us, multitaskers in particular, don’t find that appealing or practical. Who wants to lug around a book and pen all day? If we don’t have it on us all the time, won’t we be too tired at the end of the day to expend the energy on it? And would we be able to accurately recall thoughts and feelings after so much time has elapsed?
However, we do have a variety of electronic devices literally at our fingertips most of the day. Perhaps if we could journal-on-the-go on whatever device is at hand when the thoughts and feelings arise, it would be much easier to start journaling and keep it up.
For this reason, I found Lifehacker’s “Five Best Journaling Tools” by Jason Fitzpatrick helpful. There you’ll find the top journaling vehicles from a survey taken of journal enthusiasts. Not surprisingly, most prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper. But there are many who prefer the convenience and efficiency of e-journaling. There are several e-journal recommendations, read through their suggestions and decide what’s the best fit for you.
- Identify negative triggers to fitness: What are the external forces or situations that make you more likely to choose less healthy foods, to overindulge or to skip a planned workout?
- Identify positive triggers to fitness: What are the external forces or situations that make you more likely to choose healthier foods, to stay within portion parameters and to engage in a workout enthusiastically?
- Take note of feelings, both physical and emotional, surrounding eating: How did you feel before you ate, what did you eat and how did you feel after you ate?
- Take note of feelings, both physical and emotional, surrounding exercise: How did you feel when you were contemplating a workout? If you decided to workout, how did you feel during and after the workout? If you decided not to workout, what were the reasons you gave yourself for not exercising? How did you feel after making that decision?
- It’s vital to record internal dialogue – positive and negative – pertaining to fitness: What did you tell yourself when you chose to eat a particular food (healthy or unhealthy), when you chose to workout, when you chose not to workout, when you stepped on the scale, when you looked in the mirror, when you put on clothing, when you compared your body to others’ bodies?
- Make note of what you did and how you felt after you had a positive self-dialogue and what you did and how you felt after you had a negative self-dialogue.
It takes a few months of tracking these thoughts and feelings to identify patterns that would be useful in setting up your fitness goals and the strategies you’d use to achieve them.
For example, suppose someone has a penchant for celebrity gossip websites. If she’s not journaling regularly, she might not realize that, as she scrolls through photographs of thin celebrities, she has a lot of negative thoughts about her own body. She also may not realize she often craves comfort foods like ice cream and chocolate afterwards. But, if she journals long enough, she’s likely to recognize this pattern. She may decide the guilty pleasure she thought she was getting from TMZ isn’t worth it if it’s sabotaging her fitness goals.
So, find the journaling vehicle that works for you and take the time this summer to engage in self-exploration. You may be amazed by what you learn. We often say knowledge is power. How powerful, then, knowledge of self will be for you.