Daily Introspection Through a Mood Tracker
I have never been able to successfully be a “diary person”. I know lots of people who have detailed records of their lives in their diaries. They are able to pour out their feelings and record the moments of their day in a way that is consistent and meaningful to them. I, on the other hand, have tried keeping a diary numerous times. The concept of recording the ups and downs of my day every single night before bed is not something that I can fit into my routine. I do keep a running notebook that acts as a space where I can write when I am having what I like to call “big feelings”. I use this often when I am in public and feel that I do not have a space to regulate my emotions in private. I recommend this for college students who share a room and may need to find a corner of a common space to process deep emotions.
My notebook use is very sporadic (I sometimes go months without using it) and really only focuses on moments when I am feeling low. I wanted a way to take stock of my day every day without making a major time commitment. I was curious about how many of my days were truly ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’. So on January 1st I created my first Mood Tracker. It was in old fashioned pen and paper, though there are about a million apps for this. I made a circle representing each day of the month and a key at the bottom representing ‘good’, ‘bad’, and ‘neutral’. Every single day I filled it out. Now it is June and I am still going strong!
The journey of my Mood Tracker has been an extremely positive one for me. First, I have fun writing it out every month, each one with a different theme and color scheme. It is low pressure, takes about one minute, and fits right into my routine. My friends are even in on it and like to ask, “Stephanie, what color is your day today?”, though they have to keep up with the fact that each month the colors mean different things.
But one of the most interesting questions for me that this project has caused me to think about is “what truly makes a good day”? Also, how do I define a complicated day that could start out with a grueling final exam and end with yummy ice cream with my close friends? The answer, of course, is that our days cannot be simply summed up with a colored circle. However, my Mood Tracker has caused me to think about how I am feeling not only while I am filling it in, but throughout my entire day.
For example, thoughts such as “this is a blue/sad day so far. I should go on a bike ride to try to shift the blue to yellow/neutral” have been frequent since starting the Tracker. The colors themselves encourage me to take tangible actions to make my day better. Also, my Mood Tracker made me very aware of, and content with, “neutral” days. It has taught me that when a day is not great, it is not automatically bad. “Neutral” days are welcome in my Mood Tracker.
When reflecting on my days, one thing that I have learned from my Mood Tracker is that sometimes a lot of good things happen in a day, but the day still receives a sad color. This is the nature of having depression and anxiety. Fun moments can sometimes be overshadowed by sad feelings that seemingly have no reason or purpose. That is okay and is something that I have become more comfortable with. I have also been able to observe trends in my mood. For example, in the months of January and February, I recorded how I was feeling every night right before bed. I realized the nighttime is a particularly difficult time for me, so my tracker was disproportionately sad. So I have been trying different methods each month to find new and interesting results. Coming up with my method each month has been exciting for me, even if my data may not be laboratory-worthy.
My Mood Tracker has been a helpful and fun tool that I have adopted in 2023. I would recommend it for anyone who is looking for a low pressure way to learn more about themselves and keep data on their mood. While looking at the results is interesting, I find the process the most meaningful part.