The following article is a guest post.
A happy life is all about connections, whether it be with yourself, the people around you, or even something unseen. Here are four areas of your life that need constant attention.
Most people agree that journaling is one of the best ways to keep track of mental health. Once you get into the habit, recording your thoughts, opinions, high points, and low points is a very good way to track your progress from one day to the next. There are a number of smartphone apps available to make the process even more seamless.
Of course, many people prefer the old-school notebook and pencil. That may be a better idea because you can try more of the methods that have worked for other people instead of being locked into one platform.
Popular mental health journal forms include:
- Fear/Reality Comparison: People who struggle with anxiety often benefit by jotting down fears as they come to mind (“I might die alone”) then placing a logical response alongside the fear (“I have friends”). This journal mirrors the way the mind works, because fears come from the frontal cortex, and the amygdala rationally calms these fears. So, the list is a good exercise for your amygdala, which should help in the long run.
- Mood Tracker: Rating good days and bad days is an excellent way to look back and see if you need to make some changes in your routine or recognize that you are on the right path.
- Stream of Consciousness: This method is the classic “Dear Diary” approach. Especially if you do not have an emotional confidant, it’s very cathartic to release the negative things you feel and also very uplifting to memorialize the positive events that occur in your life.
- Symptom Tracker: There are many good apps and printables that list common symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other such conditions. Typically, people fill in bubbles if they have headaches, feel anxious, are unmotivated, or whatever. The symptom tracker provides excellent information and also reminds you that you are not the only person who suffers from loss of appetite or sleeplessness. A symptom tracker variation combines fill-in bubbles with stream of consciousness reflections.
Once you find the right method for you, stick with it. In journaling, long-term consistency is the key to both accurate information and useful results.
There are a number of tools to keep track of physical health as well. The app or journaling method works just as well in terms of physical fitness as it does with regard to mental fitness. Fitbits are the most common wearable fitness technology. They may not be 100 percent accurate, but if you use the device essentially to keep an eye on trends, some slight data unreliability should not be a big deal.
Physical fitness is not the only area to track, as it’s also important to keep up with overall wellness. Some available tools include:
- Home blood pressure monitor,
- Thermometer for fever,
- Smart bathroom scale that measures more than just weight, and
- Camera to record changes in your body.
These measurements, and others like them, should not be substituted for regular visits with your doctor. Instead, they should supplement these encounters, because better information helps you and your doctor make better choices about your health.
At these visits, it’s also important to keep up with regular health screenings, like cholesterol checks, breast cancer exams, colon tests, and other examinations.
Spirituality means different things to different people. But regardless of your point of view, it’s very transformative to believe in something larger than yourself. Otherwise, life is just a random series of events and whatever suffering you endure, whether great or small, has no purpose.
There are social benefits to spirituality as well.
Noted humanist Kurt Vonnegut often urged people to join churches, partially for the spiritual aspect, but mostly for the social aspect and the opportunity to connect with other people in the community.
Spirituality is such a personal thing that no journal or app can really help, but as a rule of thumb, if something is amiss in your spiritual life, you will know it.
There are almost always people around you who make a difference in your life. The connection could be biological, social, or even geographical (the couple that lives next door).
One of the easiest ways to monitor these connections is to look at your phone log or text message screen. If you have to scroll down very far to find the contact, there’s a good chance that you are neglecting this part of your life. Fortunately, these lost connections are usually very easy to fix. All you have to do is pick up the phone.
Always remember to keep moving forward and to take time each day to strengthen the connections in your life.