On July 27th 2020, I decided to write a journal for one year documenting how I was feeling, thinking, and what I was doing. The aim was a year of observation and to learn about any habits or triggers that made me feel sad, stressed or unwell. I decided to post this decision on a social media platform as an intention and to show my seriousness and pledge to myself. I then didn’t mention it and quietly got to work.
Several months later, I realised why this is usually not a good idea as these intentions are often uncompleted to the end because of our habits and inconsistencies.
However, in my case, I was determined that this would not be the case. So here I am one year later and two journals to prove that I stuck to my word; I have decided to write this blog to share my results and insights.
I initially called this journal my 365 Body Watch, tracking basic facts such as weight, food, mood, exercise and any health issues at any given time. It wasn’t to be any more than just a record that I could use to help me avoid the behaviours that made me feel unwell or depressed. Also, I wanted to chart the external influences that had a negative impact.
As I look back over these two notebooks, I recognise how early they changed in what was wrote from the structure and content. From simply recording basic facts, it became something a bit more reflective. Soon, I was writing an intention for the day, recording what I was reading and listening to and ending with at least one gratitude as I reflected upon the day. Only one day did I miss writing an entry due to a bereavement.
I knew that for this habit to be successful, I had to make it visible, and after something I usually do to become an activity I would remember. So, the book was placed right by my bedside locker and written in as soon as I was awake and the last thing I wrote when I got back into bed. I made it a quick activity too, not labour intensive and no more than five minutes.
When we get an idea to do something, we get a typical rush of excitement and motivation to go ahead with it. The reason why New Year’s Resolutions fail, as one example, is that the brain quickly tires of the idea, and we fall off the wagon. That’s why new gym memberships are often abandoned by February as the excitement of the activity fades and we fall back into old patterns of behaviour and inconsistencies.For something to stay put our why has to be greater than our willpower ( @Hardy, Clear). My ‘why’ was big enough to keep me committed to this task for one year.
As time went on, the compound effect of my actions took over, and one of the main reasons I have decided to share these results is to show how much two simple notebooks have had far-reaching consequences for my life and the new doors that have opened.
Here is my list of the positive impacts, new habits and surprises.
1) I had already started to walk back in 2019 but this now became a daily habit. At first 30 mins as a start, now up to two hours on one walk. I have met new lovely ladies to walk within my local area and completed my first solo walking trip this month to the Lincolnshire Wolds. I also do strength, balance and resistance training.
2) I have become more observant of people and my surroundings and have a deeper connection with nature due to my walking and reading nature books.
3) I am learning to bake cakes to reduce packaging, preservatives and less sugar. It’s also been fun and relaxing. It takes me away from too much sitting and screens. I now bake for friends, and the compound effect is that it helps make friendships more memorable. I even have a new garden sign called the Fennel Garden Tea Room.
4) I have looked at my anxiety-ridden relationship with money ( Maybe a separate blog to follow).
5) I am reading new books on subjects that would not have interested me, escape into fiction more and read almost daily, and am learning how to read better.
6) I have lost a little bit of weight. However, more importantly, have stabilised my weight and know what my food sins are and what pushes the weight up. However, I don’t punish myself for wanting a piece of chocolate or having a slice of cake with friends. Moderation and balance are everything. I also drink more water and my rosacea is much improved.
7) I listen to people more and new podcasts- Just One Thing by Dr Michael Mosley is a favourite.
8) I am aware of what triggers a ‘bad- day’ but out of every one of them, I learn something from it and am determined to create one new positive from them. As a result, I am developing more assertive skills.
9) My mental health has largely stayed strong despite lockdown’s, caring for an elderly father and trying to establish a successful tutoring business and normal pressures.
10) I have started a nature/walking journal called Wander, Wonder and Weather and have enjoyed taking photographs ( Nature Walks Here and There on Facebook.). I have started many new notebooks, including ones on church notes and my recipes.
11) I have reduced alcohol intake, usually do not drink at home anymore and only when I go out or socialise with friends.
12) I have sought professional help for severe tinnitus ( often caused by stress) and am learning to reduce it and live with it better.
13) I have started meditation again after my morning exercise- just for a couple of minutes. Read the science on this for yourself. It’s out there.
14) I have become interested in reading neuroscience, the effects of menopause on a woman’s health and take Omega 3 and Vit D, the latter in the winter months for bones, memory and immunity.
So there it is one year of journaling. I have carried on in a shorter format as I don’t want to leave multiple books behind and completing a five-year diary book I stopped using in 2020. I can see the benefits and you might want to try it too. I just hope I might have inspired you a little with your own physical and mental well-being. I honestly wasn’t expecting all of the 14 points I have mentioned.
Thanks for taking the time to read this if you got to the end. And good luck if you try this and get in touch with me if you want to.
Some of my recommended books read over the past year:
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. He has a daily video, via email. Seriously one of the best people out there for mentorship. He changes lives- your compound effect, both positive and negative is HUGE! I rarely miss him.
Atomic Habits, James Clear. Also, a must-read for anyone quitting bad habits and forming new ones. He has a newsletter I never miss reading on a Thursday.
Calm, Fearne Cotton.
The Midnight Library, Matt Haig. An excellent read about the different paths you could have taken in life, based on an fictional story but insights from real life.
Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt Haig. Some excellent points about our digital age.
Meadowlands, John Lewis-Stempel Considered being one of the best nature writers.
The XX Brain: The Groundbreaking Science Empowering Women to Prevent Dementia. Dr Lisa Mosconi. Fascinating and an essential read for women over 50.
The Daily Stoic 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living Ryan Halliday. Stephen Hanselman.
How to Read a book. A Classical Guide to Intelligent Reading. Mortimer J. Alder, Charles Van Doren.
Wintering, The power or rest and retreat in difficult times, Katherine May. A beautiful and honest story about giving ourselves space when depressed and taking time to heal.
The Art of Improvement- one of the best channels out there on self-awareness and personal development.