I’m not one for data. Numbers intimidate me and always have. When asked how much pain I’m feeling on a scale from 1–10, I struggle to reduce such an intense feeling to a single number. How can that possibly be accurate? How can I trust myself that I picked the correct number? And even if I did, my 6 is somebody’s 3 or somebody else’s 10—so how could it be helpful?
I struggle even more to quantify my mood. When I first started CBT therapy, I was asked to rate how I felt over the past two weeks on a scale from 1–10, with 10 being the worst. How was I supposed to know the answer? My low days clouded over my good days, so everything seemed bleak. Did that mean my low days were bad enough to quantify them as a 10? Questions like these provoked my tendency to self-gaslight. I couldn’t possibly have it that bad because others certainly have it worse than me, right? Even though I convinced myself that this was true, my mood was still affecting my daily habits, inner dialogue, and overall behaviour.
My lows were extremely low, and my highs were happy but nothing out of the ordinary. It was hard to see the big picture when all I could remember were my intense feelings of despair. I was on the verge of crying every single day because of my mood disorder, but I also knew that I often experienced pockets of happiness or gratitude. Was I depressed all the time? Or did it just feel like I was? There was only one way to find out—mood tracking.
The Benefits of Mood Tracking
After talking about it with my therapist, we decided that tracking my mood would be a good option to work through my issue with self-gaslighting. She suggested a few different free apps, and I chose to use one called Moodily. It’s pretty straight forward—at the end of my day, I choose an emoji that best suits my mood (horrible, meh, alright, good, awesome). The app then prompts me to answer what I was doing that day (e.g.: work, family, food, exercise) and then I get to write a small reflection. With the last feature, it’s super easy to keep track of which activities made me feel the happiest.
The data I receive from tracking my mood is one of the greatest benefits. The app suggests those suffering from depression, anxiety, or mood swings to show a doctor or other mental health specialist the progress they’ve made over time in order to support their treatment. At the end of the month, the app summarizes my days and displays my average mood. Having this empirical data about myself has not only allowed me to better talk about my mood to friends, family, and therapist but has also veered me away from questioning or over-generalizing my moods. I used to think I would be depressed for a whole month when, in reality, it was only a terrible few days. Tracking my mood has allowed me to understand how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling, which has ultimately strengthened my relationship with myself.
The Challenges of Mood Tracking
Although the data is fun and insightful to look back on, it isn’t always the easiest to write down in the moment. During my low days, the last thing I want to do is click on a sad face emoji and write a reflection as to why my day was bad. Sometimes, I even find myself forgetting to track my mood. When I’m having a really good day, I find it hard to pull away for a moment and reflect—I tend to want to stay in the moment and salvage the good feeling.
When it comes down to it, building any habit is hard. After a month of tracking my mood, I can confidently say that it has integrated itself as a part of my daily routine. Sure, I forget to track my mood some nights, but I don’t let that get to me. All I do is try to remember the next morning and plug in my data then. I think it’s important to be kind to yourself when you forget. I try to treat my mood tracking more like a self-care activity than a chore. Kind of like brushing your teeth or washing your face before bed—sometimes it’s the last thing you want to do, but you know always know it will be worth it.
Is It Worth It?
If you’ve scrolled past the whole blog for the TLDR and want to know if it’s worth it, all I can say is that it is for me. If you’ve read the whole blog and find yourself still reading, then you know why I find it to be worth it. But here’s something I can’t answer: is it worth it for you?
Just like any routine, you have to feel out what works for your everyday life. The worst approach to integrating new daily routines is choosing something that’s unrealistic to your lifestyle. Only you know what you can and cannot upkeep day-to-day, so make sure to not set yourself up for failure. With that being said, be kind to yourself if you slip up on your habit of tracking. We’re only human, and sometimes our moods can get the best of us.
If you suffer from a mood disorder or think tracking your mood would benefit you, I challenge you to try it for 30 days. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s free and takes a total of two minutes. If you decide to track your mood, let me know what you ended up learning after those 30 days. I would love to hear about your experience.