Mood Tracking: Tracking My Mental Health
By Jody Elford

I’ve been using the Daylio app for thirty-nine days now. It has been interesting and helpful to look back on the reports it had produced for November. I feel there is potential for a lot of insight to be gained from diarising habits and mood tracking that until now has remained untapped for me personally. Here’s my look back at November.

Mood Tracking: Tracking My Mental Health

Mood Tracking Alone Is Fairly Pointless

I was signed off sick throughout November. To be honest when you’re spending long, unstructured days at home you get pretty busy doing nothing and being unwell. I have fallen completely out of any sort of routine, with my retiring and rising becoming erratic, my eating hit-and-miss at best. My self-care, leisure time and study schedule were totally off-kilter.

Mood tracking alone is fairly pointless, to be honest. Sure, you’ll end up with a snapshot of how shitty you’ve been feeling. However, it’s sort of meaningless unless you can assess the correlations that might exist between that and your behaviour. Daylio helps you achieve this by tracking what you’ve been up to, as well as how you’ve been feeling in yourself. It provides plenty of habits such as ‘cleaning’, ‘reading’ and ‘drinks’, but also allows you to limitlessly add your own.

Loading Common Behaviors Helps Me

I have added loads of my own habits to help me track my common behaviours. In this way I can begin to visualise how they tie in with my mood changes (or perhaps don’t). I can track positive, healthy habits, such as eating breakfast, studying and visiting the beach. Adding the maladaptive and unhealthy vices I have, such as ‘poker face’, which is when I hide my feelings or “brave face” things as opposed to “honest sharing”. I log “riding urges” to self-injure, ‘dissociation’ and ‘alcohol use’, as opposed to ‘social drinking’, amongst others.

Daylio Allows Me To Track My Moods

What I love most about Daylio,  is how you can customise your moods and habits to suit your logging and tracking needs. I didn’t feel too hot about the moods provided, as they seemed too narrow for me to adequately track my wildly variable mind state. Daylio allowed me to add moods that I feel not only suit me, but provide me with the scope to track the broad spectrum upon which my mood performs its erratic dance.

Keeping a Mood Count

Having logged my mood 121 times, Daylio provided me with a report on how those logs divvy up into categories. It’s a very visual app, which suits me down to the ground, and is very user-friendly.

Mood Tracking

I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘pretty good’ logged 21 times. This was my second highest mood option on there; the highest was ‘lovely!’ This is the very best possible outcome. It seemed clear from this snapshot that my anxiety is much reduced, with my mood count laying more firmly in the flat/depressed/okayish court.

Twelve incidences of numbness, which in my opinion, is the most risky state of mind for me to experience, is concerning. I have added a few habits that I think might help me determine if there are any emerging patterns relating to that. This helped me understand that incidences of anxiety or stress are generally what precede numbness. This in turn, leads to dissociation and risk-taking.

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Mood Tracking

Sleep is Worth Tracking

Something worth tracking for most of us is sleep and the patterns surrounding it. What I found interesting here was how, for me, oversleeping seems to happen almost exclusively during episodes of low mood. I noticed, it happens shortly before I log a downturn of mood. Although this is altogether unsurprising, it is odd to see even weak patterns like this emerging amidst mood swings and behaviour that feel nonsensical and mercilessly unpredictable.

Mood Tracking

I’ve always been a night-owl. Even as an adolescent, I was a horror for my parents to get into bed and stay there. Numerous times I had books and earphones and all sorts of things confiscated, having been caught entertaining myself well into the small hours.

I find it a little odd though that my oversleeping doesn’t seem to correlate too strongly with my very, very late nights. Maybe that’s because I only tend to log them when I’m retiring past 1-2 am and I should be more generous with the definition of a ‘late night’. This is something I plan to look at. From here on in, ‘late’ is past midnight.

It’ll be interesting to see if my naps and oversleeping simply increase following episodes of insomnia or not. I’ve always felt I nap to escape low mood or sleep off bad thoughts…maybe I have those in the first place because I’m sleep-deprived. Time will tell.

Mood Tracking

I’ve Never Linked What I Eat With How I feel Before

Another thing I find a little interesting is it seems to me that junk food (fast food, chips, sweets, etc) corelates with my lower moods. Again, although this is something well backed by medicine and totally unsurprising, it’s weird that I’ve never seen any sort of link before between what I eat and how I feel.

Additionally to this, I have noticed a marked difference in how I feel in relation to whether I consume gluten, both mentally and physically. This, plus my strong family history of coeliac disease, has prompted me to get tested. I’ve also added ‘healthy food’ to my diary so I can begin looking at where my mood tends to go when I’ve been eating cleaner. I’m expecting no big plot twist, to be honest.

I Couldn’t Go Six Days Before, Now It’s Thirty-Two

Urges to self-harm have been a-plenty, with 70 individual logs for ‘riding urges’. You read that correctly, seventy. Seventy individual times I have told my app that I’ve wanted to cut, bruise, burn or do anything else to hurt myself. Crazy, right?

To be frank I expected it to be higher. There have been times in the past few weeks where I have really struggled to maintain what is my longest streak since my relapse in August. I blogged before about how I couldn’t seem to get past six days. So to have hit thirty-two today is mind-boggling to me.

What seems weird here is how there seems to be no pattern to it, like the frequency at which I feel. It’s like the urge and junkie-fied thoughts seem to have little to do with how I feel. That would suggest to me it’s more of an intrusive thought than just an emotional response. It’s like an addiction or fascination, as opposed to simply just a reaction to emotional stimuli. Sure, panic attacks, conflict and low mood all leave me feeling triggered, but the urge can bother me any time, even on a better day.

Mindfulness is difficult to achieve when you feel overwhelmed by, and at the mercy of, your emotions.

Using A Tool Like Daylio Can Be Helpful

I would recommend Daylio to anyone. No, I’m not a sponsor or anything, I just cannot believe what a helpful tool it has been. My partner even finds it useful to take a peek at my log and see where I’m at. He can see quite plainly when I’ve been ‘poker face’-ing, which I hate, but it’s important.

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Being able to take a analytical sort of look at your experiences with mood and behaviour is a useful tool if used consistently. It can bring about a level of mindfulness that is difficult to achieve when you feel overwhelmed and at the mercy of your emotions and mental illness.

It’ll be interesting to see how my stats differ (and hopefully improve) when I review December.

Reproduced with permission, originally posted here: Mental Babble


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