How Mood Tracking Can Improve Your Mental Health, According to Experts
Plus, the four apps to get you started.
May 9th to 15th is National Women's Health Week.
Self-care comes in all shapes and sizes, whether it be drawing yourself a nice bubble bath, doing a fresh manicure, treating yourself out to a nice meal, or having a mini dance party. All of these habits are great quick fixes to turning your day or mood around, but they don't provide long-term results. For instance, you can have off days where you get stuck in a funk and your emotions don't feel like they make any sense. But learning how to combat those emotions with a mood-tracking tool may be the answer to managing and understanding both your mood and emotional patterns in a more clear and effective manner.
Believe it or not, our mood can be the culprit behind the negative energy we may be feeling not only emotionally, but physically.
"[Our mood or] the way we feel can influence nearly all areas of our lives, including our thoughts about ourselves and others, actions we decide to take or not take, and how we show up within different areas of our lives," Sheva Assar, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and relationship coach in California, tells HelloGiggles. She noted things like your sleep, the extent of interests, levels of motivation, and energy can also be impacted.
Moods are tricky to comprehend because you can be happy one moment and sulky the next. What makes them even harder to grapple with is that they're abstract. Enter: mood tracking.
Benefits of mood tracking:
Charting our moods can help keep our range of feelings in check by increasing awareness as to how different behaviors, situations, or activities may be emotionally impacting us, Dr. Sheva further explains.
"Oftentimes, when we are experiencing emotional discomfort, we may not immediately know what has contributed to it nor the specific emotions that we are experiencing," she continues. "By taking a moment to check in, we're able to gain a better understanding about our internal experiences, factors that contributed to the emotional discomfort, and specifically, identify and label the emotions that we are experiencing."
Shanta Jackson, a licensed professional counselor in Texas, echoes that statement, adding tracking can help "develop coping skills to deal with those moods we don't want and behaviors we aren't fond of."
Just like we dedicate time to take care of our physical health, we must set time aside to nourish our mental health, too. Poor emotional health can lead to a weakened immune system and when combined with stress, can prompt headaches, stomach issues, fatigue, insomnia, and more, Jackson explains. "Our mind and bodies are connected—if you don't take care of one, the other will let you know!"
Per Jackson, there are a number of benefits to mood tracking, most of which fall into three major categories. They are 1) being able to emotionally connect with oneself, 2) learning how to identify mood patterns, and 3) understanding mood triggers.
Rather than allowing our moods to fester, Dr. Sheva says charting makes us pause, check in, and reflect. This can lead to fewer emotional-based outbursts, happier moods, overall well-being, and these "big picture" benefits. Sometimes self-care looks like hard work, and putting in the work now will act as a preventative measure in the future.
How to track your mood:
Mood tracking looks different for everyone, that's the beauty of it! The gist of it goes a little something like this: Pick distinct periods of time throughout the day like breakfast, lunch, and dinner (can be more, can be less), and identify one or more emotions you are currently experiencing at that moment. Dr. Sheva notes it's also important to jot down whatever it is you're doing during that designated time that led to that emotion. Likewise, sticking to a mood journal schedule is key in order to understand the impact certain activities (i.e. work, for example) or people (family, friends, roommates, partners, etc.) have on your mood.
Mood tracker apps:
For those who prefer pen and paper, Jackson recommends searching "mood tracking" on Pinterest or Instagram for mood journaling inspiration. However, for the techies in the room, here are four apps our experts suggest checking out:
- Moodily: "This is my favorite. I love it because the app was designed by a team of people who have struggled with depression themselves, and their goal for the app is to help others identify what makes them happier," says Jackson.
- Reflectly: "It's a mood tracker and diary, and with this app, you write down how you feel and it gives you morning motivational quotes and even some challenges. The app asks you personal questions based on what you entered so that you can think a little deeper in how you felt that day," says Jackson.
- Moodkit: "This app was developed by two clinical psychologists and appears to draw from the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is an evidence-based treatment approach. It focuses on different aspects of wellness, such as including specific mood enhancing activities, challenging unhelpful thoughts, tracking mood, and journaling as a tool for self-awareness," says Dr. Sheva.
- Moodfit: "Although I have not used this app, after doing some research, I was drawn to the comprehensiveness of the app and the offering of various wellness-based tools. I think it can be incredibly helpful to be exposed and have access to these various wellness-based activities and strategies in order for each person to identify what is going to be most helpful to them and easily incorporated within their lives," says Dr. Sheva.
Mood tracking isn't a substitution for therapy, but it can be an instrumental exercise for bettering your mental health. The next time you feel your mood heading toward the angry red face emoji, pause, write it down, check in, and reflect—you got this!