Our emotions can change daily, hourly or even minute-to-minute due to unexpected events that can trigger mood shifts. For instance, you can wake up feeling calm and then get news in a phone call that instantly makes you anxious or sad. On the flip side, receiving a gift basket or a dozen roses can spark joy and brighten an otherwise bleak day.
Feelings are dynamic — they can change for many reasons or no reason at all. If you already keeping a journal, you’re probably recording your thoughts and feelings. If you’re thinking of starting a journal or trying to understand what drives changes in your mood, a mood tracker is a fun and informative tool.
What is mood tracking?
Everyone knows what journaling or diary-keeping is, but mood tracking is a bit of a different concept. A bullet journal (bujo, for short) is a popular modern journaling system that uses bullet points to log daily activities, create to-do lists, set goals and much more. The concept involves writing a series of short, simple sentences that describe daily events or future tasks instead of writing a long, narrative “story” about an experience.
Mood tracking in a bullet journal is an easy way to keep track of how you feel throughout any given day. Entries can be as simple or as detailed as you like. On the page for Jan. 30, you might write “phone call with Dad — happy.” The idea is to track how your mood changes, and why, day to day.
It’s also helpful to use a color chart in order to define different emotions. For example, blue equals “sad,” orange expresses “ambitious,” red represents “angry,” and green denotes “joyful.” At the end of each month, you can look back and track how often you felt each emotion — and see whether there are any changes you’d like to make.
Remember, it’s your personal record, so there is no right or wrong way to do it. The important part is developing a system that’s easy and makes sense to you.
Mood tracking benefits
Why should you take time out of your schedule to track your mood? First and foremost, mental well-being impacts physical health. Recognizing factors that influence or impact moods and emotions is a crucial way to maintain positive mental health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety can trigger headaches, and excessive stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and more. Some people eat more when they’re sad, and others eat less, causing unhealthy fluctuations in body weight.
Being in tune with your moods can help you identify triggers and potentially avoid situations that might bring you down, set you off or cause negative physical consequences. By discovering emotional patterns, you can proactively aim to prevent negative moods.
Do you feel more anxious during work meetings or doctor’s appointments? Do you feel sad during colder temperatures and shorter days of winter? Identifying situational feelings like these enables you to take positive action. Maybe you’ll take a walk on a sunny winter day to lift your spirits. You could also spend a few minutes meditating before an important conference call.
Overall, mood tracking can help you counteract negative feelings as they arise and boost your mental and physical well-being.
Creative mood trackers
There are lots of other creative ways to track your moods. Here are a few popular options:
• If you’ve ever enjoyed doing paint-by-number, try making your own color-by-number mood tracking pictures. Draw or paint a picture of a snowflake or a mountain, and label it with the days of the month. Next, create a color legend (as described earlier) and color each numbered section to match your mood.
• Blank scrapbook pages filled with photos, drawings or notes are another option. Use stickers or paper cutouts to represent your daily emotions. Ten smiley faces on a June page/drawing means you were happy at least 10 days out of 30 that month, for example.
• Collecting colored marbles or hard candies in a Mason jar each day is another out-of-the-box mood tracking idea. In this case, three watermelon Jolly Ranchers (remember, green represents “joyful”) in a jar with 27 black jelly beans (black corresponds to “despair”) might mean April was a tough month. Compare jar contents each month to identify any emotional trends.
The sky’s the limit in creating a mood tracker that works for you. Create whatever you think you can do consistently, and you may start to see patterns in your moods emerge.
Traditional journals and digital options
Many people like to physically write, sketch and mood track in a traditional journal — Moleskine, for example, is a well-known brand. Others prefer keeping a digital diary. Tracking daily, monthly and yearly moods in an Excel spreadsheet is a fantastic paperless option. Finally, mood tracking apps like MoodKit and MoodTracker are available for iPhone and Android devices.
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