We are strong believers in the value of paying attention. We define what is important in our lives by what we pay attention to. And if we don’t pay attention to things it is practically impossible to improve them.
The kind of journal that we have in mind is one that pays attention to the shifts in mood during the day. What affects how we feel? What are the thoughts that go with those shifts in mood? The more honest and complete the entries the better. A study by Dr. Pennebaker showed that just writing about traumatic and disturbing events significantly reduced anxiety and improved health.
Think about each day and look for the most emotionally significant parts of the day. Describe the emotions. Look at the events that took place and try to determine which events were the most important. Were there any thoughts that connected the events to the emotions.
If there are specific parts of your life that your are interested in changing, writing a focused journal is often one of the best ways of beginning that change. For instance, studies on weight loss have found that accurately keeping track of what and when you eat is one of the most powerful ways of losing weight.
For people with a cyclic or shifting mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder, keeping a mood journal can be the only way to effectively guide treatment. If you are confused about how your moods shift from day to day, your health care provider can’t help but be confused.