We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.
With the new year fast approaching, many of us focus on our health and what we want to accomplish. This year more than ever, we need to stay healthy and active. One easy way to achieve this is to keep a health journal.
We’ve put together some tips on how to keep a health journal and precisely track your cough. We also had the pleasure of sitting down with Reid Moorsmith, an anthropologist and public health professional who now serves as the Director of Consumer Products for Hyfe, to discuss his unique and impressive health journaling practice.
Focussing on your overall health during the winter months and around the new year is a great way to improve and optimize your well-being.
Some people sign up for expensive gyms, but in fact, there is a much easier and cost-effective way to stay healthy and assess any physical and mental needs, and that’s to create a daily personal health journal.
If you want to understand your current health status and are inspired to make improvements to your lifestyle, then a health journal can help you assess and understand your body.
Writing a daily log of your diet, exercise, sleep patterns, what medicine and supplements are taken, water consumption, and how you feel physically and emotionally will help you discover correlations in your well-being and health. The findings will allow you to see behaviors and symptoms that could possibly be attributed to what you consumed, for example.
Start with a general notebook; A5 or A4 is best to use a page per day. Alternatively, you can start an e-document of your choice. Spreadsheets work well because they allow you to add many rows and columns. You can then add color for different categories.
To start your journal, add daily dates and days of the week.
You can keep a record of your statistics before you start your health journal journey. For example, do a full bodyweight check with BMI, and record body temperature, hydration levels, height, body measurements, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc. Depending on what you will decide to record daily, add these options to your journal. You might want to record some options daily, some weekly, and some monthly.
Include space to write daily accounts of:
Some people choose to record the weather because this can affect certain health issues.
Log any physical symptoms like bloating, nausea, hunger, rashes, lumps, bites, energy levels, pain, discomfort, bathroom frequency, and more obvious things like sneezing and coughing. Think about all the areas of your body. Once you start noticing things, your list will grow.
All the above can help determine trends in your day-to-day health to determine if you are allergic or sensitive to certain foods or environmental stimuli.
Keep a note of your mental well-being, such as anxiety, stress, sadness, panic attacks, anger, and depression. If specific things happen, note the time of day they occurred. Use a scale of general mental well-being each day so that you can easily see a pattern.
There are many different ways in which you can track your health. Reid was kind enough to spend some time with us and discuss how he does it.
Ben Richardson: So Reid, can you tell me a little bit about how you got started with health journaling?
Reid Moorsmith: Way back in 2015, I was at a New Year’s Eve party with some friends and family in Yangon, Myanmar. I was talking with a friend who told me about his own health journaling practice, which consisted of him utilizing an Excel spreadsheet to track his exercise progress.
Seeing as it was New Year’s Eve, we’d both had a few drinks at that point. Somehow, over the course of our discussion, I became enthralled with his method and decided that the next day I would try a similar tracking strategy myself.
True to my word, I woke up the next morning and started tracking my health through my friend’s method.
BR: Did you start by using the same Excel spreadsheet as your friend? How does it work?
RM: My tracking method is very similar. However, I have made some slight modifications to fit my own needs a bit better.
Essentially, I have a tab on the Excel document that has a ton of different exercise categories. Each category has what I’ve termed a “coefficient,” which essentially allows me to create a points system. The points are awarded based on a system that loosely tracks the volume of exercise (for strength training) and the duration of exercise (for cardiovascular pursuits). Additionally, this points system accounts (again, loosely) for the perceived effort of the exercise session.
If I feel like I want to increase my fitness in one or more categories, I can use my spreadsheet to measure progress. For general, overall fitness, I can go by the total number of points achieved in a given time period. For specific areas of fitness, I can compare the specifics of that category of exercise.
BR: Interesting! Do you find that you have to adjust the coefficients very often?
RM: There have been a few occasions over the years where I’ve felt the need to adjust these measures slightly to be a better indication of my current exercise habits. When I do so, this change is reflected both retrospectively and prospectively. Also, I’ve tweaked the specific exercises themselves as my exercise routine has changed over the years.
BR: This sounds like a pretty rigorous practice. Do you document this information every day?
RM: Every day that I exercise, yes. I also have a similar tracking system for my alcohol consumption.
BR: How does the alcohol tracker work?
RM: Basically, I keep track of my average drinks per day and review that over time. My recent goal was to get my daily drinks down to below 2.00 drinks a day. I’m happy to say that I’m currently at 1.97, down from 2.05 in October of 2021.
So that basically gives you an example of how I can set monthly and weekly goals very easily through this method.
BR: I know that some people feel like lifestyle changes such as this are hard to maintain, as they may miss one day and then “fall off the wagon,” so to speak. Do you feel frustrated or disheartened if you aren’t able to log your information on a given day?
RM: At this point, it’s become fairly routine for me. If I miss a day or two, I just catch up when I can. No big deal. Also, I use different tools such as a Garmin watch and the Strava app to track my cardio. So if I can’t remember what I did on a given day, I always have a backup.
BR: You mentioned your specific alcohol intake goal that you recently achieved. What were your goals initially when you started tracking your health?
RM: I suppose I didn’t really have any goals when I started out. I kind of just wanted to see if I liked tracking my health in this way and whether or not I could stick with it. Before I knew it, a year had gone by, and I hadn’t missed any entries.
As far as my alcohol tracking goes, the example I referenced earlier is not a linear, long-term trend. It was a goal I set in October, and I wanted to achieve it. With the help of my spreadsheet, I was able to do so.
Exercise-wise, I set similar goals. While, of course, I want to increase my capacity in various areas of fitness, exercise is also a necessary part of my mental health and well-being. So, even if there are periods where I’m not setting specific, physical workout goals, I’m always achieving mental health objectives when I’m moving.
BR: I have to imagine that the COVID-19 pandemic affected your health journaling practice in some way. Can you speak to that?
RM: It sure did. However, the pandemic didn’t have an overall negative effect on my health habits; it just forced me to change the way I did things for a time.
Specifically, one of my favorite ways of getting cardio is through playing tennis. Obviously, I couldn’t do this for a few months early in the pandemic. But I was able to pivot by increasing my running and using an elliptical (which I bought to keep up with winter cardio).
Of course, the gyms were closed for a long time too. But there are many good, curious, and downright odd strength and cardio training routines available on Youtube. I used these and modified my routine slightly.
Surprisingly, with my change in habits, my fitness actually improved over the course of the pandemic.
BR: In closing, do you have any recommendations for someone who thinks that a similar health-tracking method could help them achieve a healthier lifestyle?
RM: For those looking to start a health tracking system, I would offer the following five recommendations:
Health journaling comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s no need for fancy equipment or advanced technology. Something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet can provide incredible value to those who want to start getting healthy but aren’t sure where to start.
Our thanks to Reid Moorsmith for his contribution to this article.
Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He treats a variety of conditions and writes about a number of topics in the health field. In his free time, Bennett enjoys exercising, reading, and philosophizing with anyone he can trick into having a conversation with him.