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I find journaling indispensable (jborichevskiy.com)
467 points by jborichevskiy on Aug 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 171 comments

I've been journaling for several years and have developed a template I fill out most mornings. After telling some friends about it, I put it in a public format and shared as a Google Doc that anyone can check out. I have a very long Google Doc with a more personal version of this template at the top of it, and I copy and paste it to bump down the prior day's journal and start filling it out.

Posting it here in case it's helpful for anyone who wants some structure around the journaling:


I also have a template. I use TiddlyWiki as I can then quite easily retrieve the data that I'm storing in HTML. If this habit continues, I'll probably create a home server and make sure I can journal online.

My template is more focused on being a daily questionnaire rather than a journal, but it can do both. I've done 2 analyses so far, one qualitative (about what made me most relaxed) and one quantitative (my energy levels currently correlate for 0.66 with my happiness and my stress doesn't correlate with either of them).

However, now that I've read this blog post, I think that I should create a seperate place somewhere to write journal articles (probably just TiddlyWiki as well).

My template: https://imgur.com/a/mJ8nkio

That's really cool! How did you create that in TiddlyWiki?

Here are some code snippets.

I always tried to use fields, but for some things I used a scratchpad tiddler called StoreDailyQuestionaireData. If I would use the same in those case, then I'd get rendering issues.

  ! My happiness levels are

  <$radio field="q-happiness-levels" value="1"> abysmal low</$radio>
  <$radio field="q-happiness-levels" value="2"> very low</$radio>
  <$radio field="q-happiness-levels" value="3"> low</$radio>
  <$radio field="q-happiness-levels" value="4"> medium</$radio>
  <$radio field="q-happiness-levels" value="5"> high</$radio>
  <$radio field="q-happiness-levels" value="6"> very high</$radio>
  <$radio field="q-happiness-levels" value="7"> extremely high</$radio>

  ! I slept

  <p class="sleep-time-interval">Time Interval: <$view field=sleep-time-interval_value/> <$edit-text tiddler="StoreDailyQuestionnaireData" field="sleep-time-interval_value"/> <$button><$action-setfield $field=sleep-time-interval_value $value={{StoreDailyQuestionnaireData!!sleep-time-interval_value}} /><$action-setfield $tiddler="StoreDailyQuestionnaireData" $field="sleep-time-interval_value" $value="" /> change sleep-time-interval</$button> <span class="subtitle"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; (E.g. format: 23:49 - 03:57, 06:37 - 10:47)</span></p>

  ! How many cups coffee did you drink?

  <$range field="coffee-amount" min="0" max="10" default="0" increment="1"/> <$transclude field="coffee-amount" />

MoinMoin has templates as well

You can also write journal entries via email, somewordsfor.me sends you an email every day and you only have to reply to add an entry.

this looks really neat

I just wanted to say thank you for your template. It's inspired me to start journalling again and I'm going to make use of it!

This is really cool! I like the increased structure. Have you ever tried doing any retrospective analysis on it?

Thanks! I go back and read old posts at times. I haven’t done anything really formal though.

This is great!

I do something similar in the evening to relax before sleep, albeit more freestyle and I write it down on paper, but doing it at the start of day sounds like a great way to set the mood, going to adopt it.

This is fantastic, thank you for sharing!

Doing what you're doing is incredibly courageous. I would never be able to do it. It would be like walking naked into a gathering of friends.

How do you do it? How to you get past the self-editing to suppress embarrassing thoughts? You are getting naked in front of everyone!

Maybe I'm misunderstanding something but I think he is only sharing the template with his friends, not the journal itself.

Right, I don’t post the journal publicly. Just this template.

I’ve been journaling for about 5 years daily, and actually decided to stop last year. For a long time I felt depressed, and my journal notes reflected that.

Every day I sat to write down another entry, and when looking at a few previous notes (or at “this day 1 year/2 years ago”, which is a feature of many journaling apps), the bad days seemed “normal”, because, well, there weren’t many good days. I believe this somehow helped me stay in a depressed state, helped perpetuate the feeling of normality of something that should be considered abnormal.

I am feeling better nowadays and consider getting back into journaling, but I am wary of this unwanted normalization possibility. It’d be great to have some sort of a basis to compare days to. Or maybe this is a bad idea.

Journaling is supposed to make you more self reflective, to increase meta attention. It definitely does that, but it’s harder for some people.

I 100% agree. I had kept a journal continuously for about 17 years. My decision to stop was intentional and difficult. I loved my journal deeply, and it's difficult to explain how it became an impediment for me and why I believed it was a crutch. Living with a journal was, for me, similar to watching a concert through the screen of your iPhone. My life is less examined now, but it is better and I feel better.

I destroyed that journal entirely. I can never get it back, and I can not see how I felt 8 years ago on this date, or 16 years ago on new years. It does not matter how I was then. The continuity of it prevented me from feeling I could break with the past.

>I had kept a journal continuously for about 17 years. >I destroyed that journal entirely.

Woah! That's one hell of a buddhist exercise. Reminds me of those monks that spend days diligently painting complex pictures with colored sand [1] to later destroy it completely.

I hope your break from the past was successful.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_mandala

Forgive me for speculating, but I believe it's not possible to fully appreciate a mental state when you're in that particular state. The insight power of journaling comes from reading your entries from an elevated perspective, as you have noted.

I also believe that, just like memories change when you recall them, writing down your thoughts will change them. That change isn't necessarily positive when you're depressed. Every thought will be inevitably filtered through the lens of apathy.

I agree.

My comment was one sided in a sense that journaling also helped me notice this condition in a long term. Eventually, at least. Also, I think those records might become valuable in the future.

Your “lens of apathy” statement really hit home for me. I do feel this strongly when reading journal entries from years ago. It all seems so... unimportant, so mundane, even thought I might’ve had very strong feelings at the moment. Not sure if you meant this type of thing.

It would be good to be able to capture emotions better. Maybe my writing is just not as good. Maybe I should try writing poetry :-)

> Maybe I should try writing poetry :-)

I've been writing poetry similarly to the way journals are discussed here. Your first post resonated with me -- I'd use poems to converse with my conflicted self; give the emotions a free hand to write things that may be painful to read later; get it out of my head -- and I'd encourage you to return to writing (or poetry!) because distance brings freshness.

"When the soul wanes the form appears." - Charles Bukowski

Reading your comment also made me think about how it's harder to write when things are good. Someone else commented about the possibility of writing your thoughts down having an affect on them; I think there's merit to that tied with the power of our thoughts and the reinforcement/feedback that you observed while feeling the opposite.

A reminder to myself, even; consistent writing is as hard as consistent anything else.

Thanks for encouragement!

I'm curious, and I hope that's okay to ask, but could you share an example of your journal-ish poetry?

You know, I think it really depends on how you do it.

I’ve gotten into journaling (though I call it “logging”) as a tool to help me overcome these kinds of issues. Depression is a vicious cycle where you feel like crap, brood on how you feel like crap, do nothing that’s meaningful to you, and then feel like crap because you did nothing that was meaningful for you.

If your journal is just an outlet for this cycle of brooding, it’s part of the problem. If you use it to log information that you can use to “debug yourself”, it can be part of the solution. If I had a paper journal, I would get one with the cover embossed, “NO BROODING”.

Journaling changed my life. I used a mindmap editor called Freeplane. I wasn't trying to change myself; I was just recording thoughts. But the mindmap editor let me decompose and reorganize them, and I spent a lot of time reiewing and reorganizing, such that I eventually had a lot of notes about things like kindness, humor, curiosity, interpersonal dynamics ... anything I thought might be worth remembering.

I think it led me to discover destructive behaviors in myself, and constructive alternatives to them. I remember a lot of it was about how to talk to strangers, which I find pretty easy now.

It was my favorite thing to do for years. Then I stopped. shrug

Interesting, I've been thinking about reflection too. As I've grown older I am a lot more self aware and think about my experiences, what I've done and what I'm doing now. It really helps to critically evaluate what you're achieving. But as you say, the reality is most of us really aren't doing much interesting, creative or ground breaking. Maybe that inspires you to focus on doing great things, but for me its sad.

Maybe just acting like a child and try to have fun is a better solution.

I think you might be right. Although I think depression is a result of the physical state of the body and depressive thoughts are always the symptom, never the cause of depression I also believe that narratives do matter.

Using narrative you can put yourself in a thought loop that prevents you from implementing changes that could improve your depressive condition.

Reading replies like yours I started to wonder about a more systematic approach to journaling in the context of mood, therapy, depression, etc. Quick google search lead to this [1] article, I haven't read it yet, though.

I also remember reading about particular journaling techniques to battle certain mental conditions.

[1] https://medium.com/better-humans/cognitive-journaling-a-syst...

I think journaling could help if you adopted a more upbeat personna for the purposes of writing than what you feel is your true self at the moment.

Man you have hit the nail on the head, thank you for sharing this, it has clarified some thoughts I’ve had for a while.

I hope all is going to be well.

In the early 90s my dad was trying to explain word processing to a young me. We had DOS on a 386 with Microsoft Works. He told me you could keep a journal. I started writing in all caps about my family and pets and school.

I still have the file, and have continued writing in it just once every few months. I love it. It's basically my life story.

Maybe I should write more. Glad to hear from this post that I'm not the only one who likes it.

I've been doing the same since I was 12, just one simple .txt file that I've managed to keep alive since then!

I only write in there when I remember, which is usually 1-3 times a year, usually after an important life event - so it's really fun reading back through it...

That’s so cool, I wish I started that early! I’m sure it’s incredible to look back and see the evolution in the writing and yourself.

A few years ago I read an article about scientists planting false memories into a mouse. [0]

This got me thinking that people were next. Then I thought: what if it already had happened? What if I've already been planted false memories?

The only time frame in which I can be sure I am who I am is from the time I regain consciousness (wake up) until I lose consciousness (fall asleep). I liked this concept because it freed me from my past and future selves. I am not them.

So, I created a journaling app that uses versions of you instead of dates. This morning, it greeted me with "Good morning, Alexander №10821". I can browse and see what other versions of Alexander (like №9851) were up to. I also understand that tomorrow it's Alexander №10822 who will wake up and not me, so I got to live this day however I like (though as I like the future Alexanders, I'm gonna also contribute to their well-being).

I will make this app public, so if this type of thinking resonates with you, leave your email in the google form I just created. [1] The app will have end-to-end encryption and cost $3/month.

[0] - https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/meet-two-scientist...

[1] - https://forms.gle/PX8Aca6TR6cg5S9WA

Reminds me a bit of Diaspora by Greg Egan. I recommend it to you! Post-singularity “people” in the book start to develop interesting ways to distinguish between themselves and past versions. Since they’re immortal and infinitely copyable, their sense of self is naturally quite different from our corporeal on one. You might be into it!

Egan’s best book IMHO. Genuinely mind expanding ideas.

> The only time frame in which I can be sure I am who I am is from the time I regain consciousness (wake up) until I lose consciousness (fall asleep).

I don't see what's privileged about continuity. All of us are pretty different in the evening from in the morning. And in theory you could have been created at noon with a memory of the morning. You might not even exist yet.

Not that I'm saying those are particularly useful possibilities to be aware of. To the contrary, my point is that the self, despite being a fiction, is generally too useful to see past.

You can not be sure you have ever had consciousness prior to the present moment. All you have are memories of it that may or may not reflect reality.

A subset of the ol’, “God created the entire universe 10 microseconds ago arranged so that everything looks as if it were around much longer”.

A superset, as it does not presuppose anything supernatural at all. The possible explanations that involves a God is a subset.

E.g the simulation argument is another solution. So would cloning be. Or simulation of just an individual. Or we might just fundamentally not understand what gives rise to consciousness - for what we know consciousness may only arise for brief moments punctuated by long periods where we're just acting as automata. Or we might fundamentally not understand the passage of time.

It makes sense for us to act as if consciousness is an ongoing consistent process, because we can't really tell if it is not. The same way as the classical materialist (in the philosophical sense) response to philosophical idealism is to point out that whether or not idealists are right (that we can not trust our senses and our physical reality could just be an illusion) doesn't matter - if we have no practical way to detect it or influence it, we just have to live with it.

Point being that drawing a line between asleep vs not sleep is totally arbitrary, because we can't tell.

> The app will have end-to-end encryption and cost $3/month.

Why does the app need a network connection? Why not just store everything locally?

That was my first thought, but I don't want to lose years of journaling if I lose my phone.

Put the file on Dropbox or Google Drive or set up a shortcut to save it to PDF every night.

Great idea, please share the app here once you go public

I have been writing down what I do every day since 2002. So 17 years of daily notes about what I did, how I feel, what I was excited about that day. One cool thing about the journal is that it is electronic. So its searchable which is kind of cool. Its always handy to look up stuff you did in the past and when you did it, who you were with, when you went on that great vacation to the beach etc... I highly recommend keeping a journal, for people who are into it.

What tools are you using to manage all the data/indexing it for search/etc? I've gotten into journaling just this year, and have honestly been contemplating building my own proprietary system for managing them because of how crucial I feel it's become to my lifestyle, but I'd obviously love the opportunity to use something that's already useful.

I have been using pass[1]. Lots of git hosting providers out there and mobile apps. I just have an alias that runs

  pass edit journal/$(date '+%Y-%m-%d')
And I run the alias when the mood hits me. Then

  pass git push origin
[1] https://www.passwordstore.org/

I use `pass` to manage my passwords, and I have a git repository where I run "vim `date -I`" every day to make a daily journal of what I'm doing at work.

But I never thought of combining the two to get encrypted files. Very neat.

That's a really good idea. The format is simple and will probably be readable for many years to come. And it works with the user's preferred editor.

There is also gopass[1] who is compatible with pass and has a few more nice features like the git auto-sync and templates. `gopass template create journal`

[1] https://www.gopass.pw/

I was just thinking of how best to do journaling in an encrypted way and figured pass might work, but then I realised it probably isn't easy to search across notes. Have you found a way to do that that doesn't involve just dumping everything to intermediate plaintext?

It isn't fast but `pass grep SEARCHTERM` works great.

Nice system. Simple and ergonomic. I've used a similar system before but 1) stored locally (never persisting to git) and 2) not using pass + `date`. This streamlines that for me.

So my interface to all of my text files is Redis.

I use the simple Redis data structures to store the data and with a common interface I am able to populate all sorts of different tools for indexing and search.

Then from there I use the following tools...



Recently I have been experimenting with...


By maintaining Redis as my interface engine, I can experiment with all sorts of different tools in different programming languages...

Over time I have grown to love Redis as my data store...

Of course I have a simple way of getting the common text files that I write my daily journal in into Redis.

And then from there its just a matter of the common interface into the different indexing / search technologies.

People have these crazy custom systems, and more power to 'em, but I just use Apple Notes connected to my self-hosted mail system (it doesn't need to be self-hosted, just standard IMAP). It stores your notes essentially as pieces of mail in a "Notes" folder, and you can search within the Notes app or any email client (Apple Mail hides the folder, though). Then you get a nice desktop/mobile/tablet apps, rich text editing, and your data stays yours.

I use OneNote. Search is fantastic, I have a section for each year, and a page for each week. I tend to move sections into an Archive notebook when they are a couple years old, but there's no real need to do that.

On iOS, OneNote has a completely broken search experience. That's a showstopper for me.

I've used Penzu for my one-off journaling (https://penzu.com). Their basic free tier worked out perfectly for me.

I keep a similar thing in Org mode (yes today _I'm_ going to be the one mentioning Org Mode). Every day I create an entry into my DayNotes org file with the date in reverse order e.g. 2019-09-01 and with where I am and the weather etc. I usually have three sections, a catch up of yesterday, what I'm probably going to do today, and my actual day notes. This usually includes my current theme, something Im focusing on for a certain period, this week it is creativity.

I also keep a paper journal, which has longer term themes and thoughts and planning. This usually ends up being a brain dump of all of the crap that goes around and around, just like in the original article. I take things from here and try to expand on them in the day notes. For the paper journal I use a Cross fountain pen, like the one that Obama had, or often cheap Fountain Pentel pens which Ive used for decades now. The fountain pen I fill with archival quality ink, the stuff that registrars use.

Thank you for being The One to bring up Org Mode. I've also been returning to Org Mode after a year or so of bullet journaling in a Moleskine (yes, with a fountain pen).

My procedure of late is:

- keyboard shortcut + a snippet of Emacs Lisp to create today's journal entry (e.g. 2019-09-01.org) in a "journal" subdirectory;

- YASnippet to fill out a daily journal template with two-column LaTeX export styling the way I want;

- Write down any dreams I remember in the morning;

- Write down a simple to-do list in an Org table, moving items up and down; rather than TODO states, I put a space between items already done and those remaining; if I don't get everything done, I can strikethrough the item to indicate that;

- Find and copy or type in a quote or a poem for the day (usually at the end of the day);

- Occasionally, paste in a small snippet of code that I wrote or saw that I liked;

- Any interesting things that happened or felt noteworthy that day.

Finally, and this is perhaps one of the more important steps:

- export as LaTeX to PDF, then print, three-hole punch, and stick it in a binder on my desk.

The format and what I put in changes daily and it's kind of neat to see that unfold in the printouts. I find that having the printed journal makes the older entries (each a single page so far) a pleasure to look over and gives me a sense of what my time has been like recently. If it was just on the computer I probably wouldn't ever look at it again, and I wanted something that gave me easy access to the feelings of the recent days that otherwise seem to disappear completely.

If you ever feel constrained by the tree data structure, you might like Semantic Synchrony, which hosts a graph, editable from Emacs:


(I'm a minor author of the project. It's kind of in a state of disrepair; Josh and I are both working on replacements for it. But it works!)

Out of curiosity, what encrypted notes app do you use? I’d be interested in a simple notes app with a clean UI, cloud sync, and encryption. I’ve played with cryptpad [1] a little bit and it’s good, but maybe a little too feature-heavy. It’s closer to google docs.

[1] https://cryptpad.fr/

I have been using pass[1]. Lots of git hosting providers out there and mobile apps. I just have an alias that runs

  pass edit journal/$(date '+%Y-%m-%d')
And I run the alias when the mood hits me. Then

  pass git push origin
[1] https://www.passwordstore.org/

Also use pass (for passwords). That's a clever hack, thanks.

You should probably look into https://standardnotes.org, it was mentioned here a while back.

Free editor is quite clean and simple.

This looks fantastic, I will definitely check it out. Thank you.

It's very barebones, but throwing jrnl (https://jrnl.sh) into a dropbox/[insert synced directory] works well and is very minimal. Encryption is supported. It's also easy to maintain multiple journals, like one for work, one for your personal life, one per project, etc.

1Password by Agilebits. Though the UI is a little clunky for long-form typing the cross-platform sync works well enough.

For Mac and iOS, DayOne is really nice and supports sync with client side encryption. https://dayoneapp.com

Vim has an encryption feature. But I can’t sync my notes with my mobile device. An encrypted notes app that can be accessed from a desktop and a mobile device would be nice.

If you know emacs: it works well with gpg mode. The default (~) auto-save won’t work though in this mode.


I'd be interested in this too

Minimalist Journalling [1] for a more visual journalling experience

[1]: https://medium.com/better-humans/draft-how-to-hack-your-brai...

Thanks for the link. I started using this method in the last few days because of it.

A journal is typically structured by date. I often find it more useful to have it by theme / project to see the progress easily and find things. Unfortunately I end up having a date journal because not everything fits in a project and more or less one journal for every project. I want access by date and project at the same time. How do others handle this?

Tags. In the paper journal I write dates but if I create a section for a project, I add page number(s) of it to the alphabetical index at the start of the journal e.g. R: Renovation: 12-15, 25, 49-52. In the electronic journal I have a directory structure like ~/Journal/YYYY/MM/YYYY-MM-DD.md and use tags. Tags not a part of the Markdown but I use convention from Bear app.

I have been using plain old email as my first point of contact for all of my journalling, todo and personal information store. Each new topic gets a new email with a date in the subject line to remind me when it started or how overdue something is. Updates become replies on previous emails to myself. When a thread gets too wieldy, I review it and re-format or delete or promote it to git. I take time to analyze, introspect, cross reference and index stuff in my personal git wiki.

They key to journalling for me has been 1) consistency and 2) reviewing what was written. The oh-so-obvious secret to consistency is to reduce friction between the thought ('I should write this') and the act. I got rid of my friction by using a separate email account and a dedicated email app with just this account configured on it. And keeping the inbox small is a good incentive to keep reviewing what I write. I take my git repo seriously. I keep reviewing it anytime I get a chance or when I need to refresh my thoughts and memories.

This simple method has worked wonderfully well for more than a year.

I have toyed with leaving journal-like blurbs of thought in my regular notes system, sort of like Architectural Decision Records (https://adr.github.io/) for my life, but the habit never stuck. The format never felt free and unconstrained enough to facilitate the sort of raw thinking-on-paper that tends to be useful a year later. I found myself self-censoring much more than I would in a regular journal.

A key benefit of using a date journal is that many tools (incl. Day One and Dabble.me) have a "remember this day" feature that surfaces entries from the past. While the simple act of writing does clarify one's thinking, I find further benefit from the regular review and opportunity for reflection this sort of feature provides. And while I do sometimes deliberately seek out a particular entry, 90%+ of my review comes automatically from this sort of feature.

If your journal is digital wouldn't this be solved by some sort of tagging system and some helper scripts? Journal primarily by date, but tag entries with a project name, and have a script to filter on tags.

Yes I tried this with org-mode, but my tags should be hierarchically nested 3 or 4 levels since some projects are quite large and need structure. This gets unfeasible with tags.

How about something like org-brain [1] or simply an index, using headlines like you would otherwise use hierarchical tags?

[1] https://github.com/Kungsgeten/org-brain

todo.txt has `+project` and `@context` fields, you could either follow that format (different leading characters) or use `@main@sub1@sub2` or `@main/sub1/sub2` for hierarchial project tags.

I mean, anything that's well formed and won't clash with typical project names is going to work.

Or rely on the file system. `journal/` as the root non-project folder and then `journal/project/sub1/`.

You can put slashes in Org tags. I think OP is looking for tooling that actually understands that they form a hierarchy.

There is something like that in Org though as I just found out.[1]

[1] https://orgmode.org/manual/Tag-hierarchy.html

I used to journal a ton in college, which is going on a decade ago. It helped my mind so much to be able to have my internal dialogues; I was learning and practicing so much, so having a built-in feedback loop made my life so much easier.

For some reason, this all changed when I entered the work world. Perhaps I simply didn't have the time or energy to do it anymore; for some reason, as hectic as college seemed, I sure did have a lot more time and energy than I do now. Some of this must be age, but some of it seems to be me having fallen off the horse and lost the mental muscles. I noticed the same thing in physical form when I fell off the wagon exercise wise a year ago.

Has anyone experienced something similar?

I found journaling useful when I was younger, and developing my first pass of thinking loops and algorithms.

As I've gotten older, I have found that I can do the same work faster just in my head. I've spoken with others who feel along similar lines. I don't feel that I've fallen off a horse, or atrophied any mental muscle. I simply think that journaling served its purpose at the appropriate time, and I have since moved on to other techniques.

This is a good point. As I've gotten older, it's gotten way easier than it used to be to work with complex constructions in my head without needing to do it in writing -- at least with things that I've practiced quite a bit and have a base level of competence with.

I still find that this is not always true with new things that I learn. In contrast to when I was younger, the learning new things part happens less and less frequently, to my chagrin.

It’s never about the tool or process. It’s always about the questions.

What’s the most uncomfortable thing you encountered today?

What’s the most uncomfortable truth you said out loud today?

What did you think about most today?

What did you mentally push aside today instead of thinking it through and openly saying your conclusions?

If there isn’t a tension, a resistant, a sorrow, you didn’t make a break through.

> If there isn’t a tension, a resistant, a sorrow, you didn’t make a break through.

Sounds masochistic. How can you determine whether this is helping or hurting? If you are regularly searching for things to make you sad and tense, you could be conditioning your mind to seek and find those things.

I think both you and GP are right. I think there's a sweet spot in between where you're both regularly seeking out the tension/load that comes with growth and simultaneously leaving space and room to reflect, relax, rest and repair.


If you’re resisting then it’s counterproductive. Borderline trauma.

But if you’re ready to face it.. that’s therapy.

Good mental health therapy is emotionally difficult, so you may be onto something. There is even some evidence that shows that self therapy can be effective (e.g., reading Feeling Good).

However, journaling as therapy is not very structured, and there is no compelling reason to continue when the going gets though. I wouldn't recommend it just yet instead of seeing a real, capable therapist.

> If there isn’t a tension, a resistant, a sorrow, you didn’t make a break through.

For some people maybe this works. For others like me this is a sure fire formula to make me drop the habit sooner than later, no matter how motivated I go into it.

If there is resistance, over time my mind will consider if what I'm doing is actually necessary, what are the consequences of fuck this, etc. That's its natural automatic process, which I believe is the healthy state (for myself). I know how to push through, just make it come up with more reasons to continue than to stop, but experience has taught me that when I do that I'm actually slowly hurting myself. I know I can over-exert myself, badly. Because it does not, in fact, get easier (for myself), and my life is not about setting up myself for failure :)

On the other hand, if I formulate the questions as a positive thing, I find I can keep it up for stretches of weeks or months. Even just a simple single thing like "write down 3 things you are grateful about". And I found it has great positive consequences. Evidenced by the fact that I started having to dig my mind to come up with 3 (I try to write genuine non-obvious things--I'm grateful having my limbs but I'm not writing that down each day), and after a while had to stop myself from not writing down 8+ every day. So achievement: more positive thoughts, unlocked :)

Highly recommend using paper and pen. The act of writing on paper seems to store memories better for me and make me more thoughtful. Plus no digital editing if you find something embarrassing or are in a better mood later.

I use the hobonichi Techo which is a cool Japanese journal: https://unsharpen.com/paper/hobonichi-techo-cousin/ . The notebook has nice features and some structure to it to keep you interested in the journal. Their 2020 models are dropping soon.

It also a very effective technique to reduce anxiety and very useful for people with ADHD. This is one of my 3 goto methods when in distress: write for 30 minutes, go for a run, or meditate.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/211.full https://www.additudemag.com/benefits-of-journal-writing-for-...

I've been sending myself a letter to future for a few years now via https://www.futureme.org

This has been quite extraordinary, and doesn't take too long. Sadly I'm not motivated enough to write regularly but having at least one day a year when I think about things, is wonderful.

For those interested, Morning Pages are pretty great as well (3 pages each morning of quick, freeform writing):


If you have any health issues, a journal where you talk about symptoms, diet, etc can be an enormously valuable tool.

Curious if any sort of data analysis on such a journal would be of use to a doctor (securing this would be a nightmare, of course). Perhaps combined with the notes a doctor takes to validate/disprove expected behavior or effects from medication or simply provide insights otherwise difficult to glean from a hurried conversation.

I have no idea.


A mom of someone with cystic fibrosis traced her child's lung bleeds to exposure to chemicals used in a dark room to develop photographs. They were then able to prevent further bleeds, at least from that source. (IIRC, her child was a teen or young adult taking a class or pursuing a hobby.)

A woman who works at the CDC was undergoing cancer treatment. Her husband took photographs regularly of her arms, I think. Photographic evidence convinced them her symptoms were getting clearly worse. They used this to convince her doctor to change her chemo drug sooner rather than later.

O good website for things like this is: https://www.patientslikeme.com/

And if you are a cancer patient, https://www.smartpatients.com is great.

No and yes. No doctor will take the time to read through your original raw log full of narrative and commentary. But if you're recording instrumented values like daily blood glucose, blood pressure, temperature, etc, and you extract those into a dated table, that's different.

My primary care doc took a big interest in seeing my daily numbers when I mentioned that I'd (systematically) tracked a recent change to my health into a table of readings. If you create a graphical plot of a relevant metric, I bet that'd be of even greater interest to any competent health professional.

IMO, if your doc isn't interested in such data, get another doc.

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