In Journaling: What the heck is a journal anyway?, I talked about different kinds of journals and the difference between a journal and a diary.
Sometimes what appears to be a diary can become a journal by helping you connect the dots, find relationships and patterns.
For example, a food diary can be a helpful tool to a person on a diet. If you record what you eat, when you eat it, and your mood at the time you eat, you can use those diary entries to pinpoint problem areas. You can see if you have a tendency to eat under certain circumstances (boredom, stress, etc.) or at certain times of day. You can discover specific foods that present a challenge to you. Then you use your journal to come up with solutions and plan how to deal with your particular challenges. (Note: this is a hypothetical example that I should follow but don’t!)
I have a health problem that has varying symptoms and a wide range of conditions that trigger the symptoms. I am finding ways to reduce or alleviate the symptoms by recording when they occur, what I’m doing, and the environment I’m in at the time. I also keep track of various things I try to prevent or alleviate the problems and the results. So over time I’m better able to prevent episodes or end them sooner.
Memory isn’t nearly as effective as a written record. If I don’t record the circumstances, I may not recognize the connection between events that happen days or weeks apart. But as I review my journal, I see patterns and connect the dots.
Journaling: What the heck is a journal anyway?