This is an excerpt from the latest installment of The Path to be Well – Knowledge and Learning podcast.
Our topic today is health journaling – what it is and why it is important. A sample cannabis health journal can be found at https://weedwell.com/journal in the Be Progressing section.
What is Health Journaling?
In a basic sense, health journaling is documenting everything you can about your health. This might be writing down a new treatment or medication. It might be recording a new therapy and how your body and you are reacting to it. It might be documenting or keeping a tab on various doctor visits and for what reason. It could document a trip to the emergency room because of an acute medical condition. Health journaling is keeping a chronological order of things that are going on with your health. It can be as detailed or little detail, but it is a logbook of your health.
Why Should You Health Journal?
Recently, we interviewed a client who told us about her husband’s suggestion that she journal what she was feeling, specific to her cannabis treatment. They journaled what it was that they were feeling. And the comment from the husband to the client was, “you know, you’re so foggy, you’re going to forget what is going on. When the doctor asks, you’re not going to remember. You should write it down, so you don’t forget.”
Regarding the foggy nature of things, especially concerning chronic conditions, the journal can assist you because it takes the guesswork out of trying to piece together the previous events in your life. This is especially true when trying to recount events for your health care practitioner.
Another thing that health journaling allowed this specific client to do was go back in time and celebrate the little triumphs. The client looked back and said, “that’s right. That’s where I was. And here I am now. I have made progress. This is something I can celebrate.” Many clients have found success. Sometimes treatment can feel like you are stuck in the same spot for a while. That is, treatment does not just go in one direction. You may have periods of significant improvement and other periods where things seem the same or worse. This is viewing treatment on a day to day or short term basis. Sometimes it is best to look at treatment over the long term view. The journal allows you to look back and see how far you have come. Many people find this information can provide more motivation.
When undergoing treatment or medication over a long duration, it can be easy to forget the path that got you to your success. Should treatment stall out, the health journal allows you to go back in time and figure out when things stopped working. You can verify the steps that you have taken during the dosing. For example, during step one and two, you were spot on with your treatment, and you began to feel better. Then things started to go away from the plan. The health journal allows you to re-start from the last best spot in your treatment. It does not mean you have to go back to the start again.
Chronic conditions can propose a unique challenge to clients. By definition, chronic medical conditions have gone on for a long time. Many sufferers of chronic conditions have gone through this treatment, that treatment, this specialist, and that specialist. There are certainly a lot of moving parts. Being able to describe what is going on can be empowering. It is good to know what is going on with your body. It is good to understand the various therapies you have attempted and how they worked or did not work for you.
Recency bias is remembering the last thing or the most prominent thing in your mind. Sometimes, clients come in, and they tell you that treatment has not gone well. And that is a very generic statement. But then you start asking questions, and the client realizes that they are doing things they were not doing last time you spoke. For example, getting around the house, doing housework or going for a walk. Maybe they have not yet reached their Smart goal, but they can celebrate less noticeable changes and achievements. Having the journal allows you to note these changes in activities.
And these changes are not just limited to physical health. You can document your mood, anxiety levels or depression too. So, to avoid reporting just the last thing to your doctor, have a journal and keep track.
A complete health journal enables you to be a good patient. When unable to answer simple questions, the doctor may be unsure about what you are saying. It can become more challenging to get a diagnosis or maybe what that next specialist or tests should be. If you come in with a solid story of what is happening, you have helped the doctor’s job. They can find the next logical step for your care. Just by keeping track of what your body is telling you, you are being a good patient and, more importantly, being a good advocate for yourself and your health care.
Journaling Your Cannabis Health Journey
Cannabis is a vast topic. It is important to break it down and include this in your journal. The first part of breaking it down is identifying the type of cannabis strain taken: sativa, indica, CBD or THC. Clients may often try a few strains at one time, especially when speaking about dry cannabis. From there, you want to document the method of cannabis consumption. Are you eating your medicine with edibles or capsules or using dosing underneath the tongue or inhaling? Lastly, enter the time of day you are dosing the various cannabis.
After you have documented all about the cannabis itself and how it was consumed, you will want to record the positive effects or absence of any effect. Further to that, include any unwanted effects or side effects. Any of the effects may be temporary or last a long time, so documenting in your health journal can help you pinpoint these changes, the length of time they last, and if they are happening on their own or in conjunction with some other changes in your life. By doing this, doctors can piece together if there’s a relation to your cannabis treatment or not.
The health journal relating to your cannabis journey feeds into two other things based on your results or lack thereof. In the near term, it helps you make your treatment decisions with cannabis, specifically to do with titration. When it is time to increase your dosing, your health journal will tell you that you need to increase or stay the same. Longer-term, when you set your next Smart health goal, it might direct you to what is achievable or not. How you feel now, and your response to cannabis treatment might tell you where you can set the next bar for you to reach.
Finally, your cannabis health journal can help you identify your treatment sweet spot. Let us take a patient treating with CBD as an example, where they have been medicating now for ten weeks or so, and they reach a point where they are taking 0.9 ml of a given CBD product. Because of journaling, they are able to identify that they have been at 0.9ml for a week or ten days. They are not really noticing any improvements from where they were at 0.8ml. This can indicate that this is the sweet spot for therapeutic relief and that your optimal dose has been attained. This may not be 100% relief, but 0% to 90% is an improvement, and that may be the max of the available benefits of that treatment for you.
Health journaling is one tool in your toolbox to assist in your health care in general and your cannabis dosing specifically. You can find a sample at weedwell.com/journal in our Be Progressing section.
Take charge of your healthcare. Get in tune with your body and what it is telling you – good, bad or otherwise. Document these feelings and use that information to improve your wellness.