Kanak Kejriwal, an undergraduate student in psychology from Delhi, vouches for the benefits of tracking one’s moods. The effort is worth it, she says.
Tracking one’s mood, according to her, can help to identify the triggers or factors that disrupt sleep, diet, and other daily activities.
“It generates useful insights,” she says. “Some of its benefits are that you are aware of your mood, and your environment, and hence your, awareness of your triggers increases.”
Mood trackers are an easy-to-use tool to understand one’s mental health. Sometimes we can find patterns and reasons for our moods and behaviours. At other times, we may struggle with this and may require professional help.
In a day, one may experience multiple emotions, like sadness, disappointment, and excitement, and learn to understand how their mood shapes over time.
However, if someone consistently feels sad and empty for more than two weeks, it may be a reason to seek help from a clinician.
Komel Chadha, a psychotherapist and corporate trainer from Delhi, says, “The best part about mood tracking is that it helps the affected persons to know how much their mood fluctuates. This helps them to exercise self-control and take actions for themselves.”
Pros and cons
A 2020 study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, sought to understand the user experiences of mood tracking apps and examined user reviews. The results indicated that much of the feedback for these apps contained positive sentiments.
The main positive features were accessibility and personalisation of the app content. The negative reviews were mainly about functionality issues and data crashes.
A 2021 study was conducted at the University of California to understand people’s usage and perspectives on mood-tracking apps. It found that participants felt inclined to document positive moods over negative ones and, even on apps, could only do it once a day.
Online mood trackers can also overwhelm many due to the aesthetics and a sense of “perfecting” the tracker. Kejriwal says, “It can be a little tricky to note down one’s moods all the time because of time constraints and a lack of motivation.”
Chadha explains, “The only [disadvantage] that I have known from my client’s records is that they aren’t able to do it hourly. And when they think of [combining them and] doing it after a couple of hours, either they miss that or aren’t able to make correct judgements of the earlier mood.”
How to make a DIY index
It is not easy to track one’s mood hourly, and in those moments, we require self-compassion and reminders that we are not the only ones. Here is a guide to create a personalised mood tracker.
For a manual version: Paper, a notebook or a page of a diary, a few coloured pens, a DIY (do it yourself) moods index.
For a digital version: A note-taking app, a moods index
The index will include the moods we want to precisely monitor. Some people use symbols: a smile to denote a happy mood, a frown for a sad mood, a flower for a cheerful mood, or a cactus to denote an angry mood. We can even use colours. Here are a few illustrations.
SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) help us to set goals within our threshold. We can start small and build towards a habit. This helps us to avoid the pressure to do it “right.”
For example: I track my mood on the top of the paper or notes app I am working on. For starters, I track my mood during teatime on alternate days. I check it with myself in a week to see how it works.
A likely outcome
Personalise the tracker
Although a moods index may track moods and give us insights into the moment, people often struggle to make sense of these outcomes. In the previously mentioned study on mood-tracking applications, one of the participants said, “I have confirmation that I am feeling [terrible]. But it doesn’t really help you to do anything about it.”
Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn-based designer, came up with the Bullet Journal System, which takes less time and effort, and adds other dimensions like meditation, gratitude lists, and future logs.
Similarly, one can create rating scales and add side notes for thoughts and feelings accompanying certain moods. This will help to find associations for different moods and may even help to analyse one’s thoughts.
Tracking on the cell phone
Research published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry journal explored the impacts of mobile-mood monitoring for young people living with mental health concerns: their app use was monitored and they were interviewed clinically.
The researchers divided the participants into two groups. A free app called ‘Catch It’ was used.
The study found the following:
- Mood tracking can invite re-examining a situation and reduce impulsivity or impulsiveness. This is significant because impulsivity is often associated with rash and adverse outcomes such as self-harm.
- Mood-tracking apps aid the therapeutic process by enhancing communication. A 23-year-old female participant explained, “Rather than just trying to explain [to clinicians and people in one’s life] how I’m feeling, I could just show them [the index].”
- Mood tracking helps to regulate one’s emotions because the thoughts, feelings and emotions get an outlet outside our minds. It has even helped some to manage self-harm tendencies. As a 17-year-old male participant explained, “It stopped me cutting. I managed to circumvent it by taking the five minutes out and doing an entry before I even felt like I needed to.”
- Mood: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260918119_Mood
- Study of mood-tracking: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8387890/