The Transformational Potential of Owning Your Own Health Story

These days, many of us are approaching our old routines with a newfound sense of appreciation and gratitude. We’re also re-evaluating and prioritizing the most meaningful aspects of our lives. For many of us, we’re more focused than maybe ever on the importance of directing our health and wellness so that we might be better enabled to live more enriching, fulfilling, and vibrant lives.

As someone who has dealt with and overcome chronic pain, for more than two decades I have had my fair share of experience with doctors, therapists, medications, exercise routines, and diet regimens. What I learned through the process is that even when you think you’ve found the perfect balance, the slightest change can take things off track.

Knowing this, I resolved to play a more vocal, active, and pre-emptive role in my health and my treatment plan: I started to track and analyze key details pertaining to my condition and general wellness. This practice has helped me better manage my chronic condition and is an empowering strategy.

Here’s a few areas where this practice can improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life:

Easing Chronic Conditions

According to the National Council on Aging, eight in ten adults age 65 and older typically have at least one chronic condition, while 68% have at least two. From arthritis to hypertension and kidney disease to heart issues, it’s important to stay on top of trends in your health which might give clues to the onset of emerging problems or mitigate the impacts of present chronic conditions. The ongoing practice of recording the nuances of your physical and emotional health can paint a broader picture of your overall state, lead to better communication with your doctor, and ultimately give rise to improved wellbeing.

Staying Ahead of Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune disease is among the top three categories of disease in the United States. Of those who suffer from them, the overwhelming majority are women, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. There’s no single reason why women are disproportionately impacted, but there are tactics we can use to stay on top of symptoms. This includes finding specialists for the root cause of the problem you’re experiencing and seeking a second opinion if you don’t feel your concerns were adequately addressed. One of the best ways to detect, diagnose, and treat the onset of autoimmune disease is to maintain accurate, detailed notes of symptoms as they occur, including how they affect you and how long they persist. Plus, journaling about your health can help avoid unnecessary testing, medication, and costs by helping your doctor get to the heart of the matter sooner.

Thriving Through Chronic Pain

Living with continuous pain is both physically and mentally debilitating. Unlike conditions that have more common symptoms and triggers, chronic pain is highly individualized. Relief comes from understanding the influences that ease or exacerbate your pain. This mission of self-discovery must consider lifestyle including diet, hydration, exercise, stress levels, and sleep patterns as well as external factors like changing weather conditions or even one’s proximity to nature. Keeping a consistent, clear, and concise record of symptoms, treatments and tracking potential triggers will help you and your health care team understand your personal situation and design the best therapeutic approach to keep chronic pain under control.

New Technology Makes Journaling Easier

We should look to the technology we use every day as a wellspring of information that can be harnessed towards better health and wellness. From our iPhone to our FitBit, many of us use some sort of device that tracks key data pertaining to their health—like sleep schedules, heart rate, and steps taken in a day.

Inspired by improving the quality of life for others living with chronic conditions, I created a mobile app called Journal My Health to empower users to easily capture and visualize these clues within their unique health data. I wanted to provide a simple and intuitive way to collect critical information about symptoms as well as our heart rate, activity, medication schedules, sleep patterns, mood, stress levels, weather conditions, and more. When regularly tracked, these data points connect the dots between details which may seem insignificant on their own but combined reveal a broader picture about what is impacting our health.

Everybody’s medical needs are specific to them, and they change more rapidly as we age. Paying attention to the fluctuations in your body, your mood, and your surroundings can help both you and your healthcare providers envision your best strategies. Keeping a consistent record of your health is the best way to do that, and luckily, today we can have the tools to do that right in the palm of our hand.

This article originally appeared in Silver Disobedience.