Helen McGillivray is a psychological therapist with over 28 years of clinical experience, including 14 years providing psychological therapies. She specialises in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Helen is accredited with
The BACBP, the leading organisation for cognitive and behavioural therapies in the UK.
Why track your mood? What are the benefits and how should you do it?
There is often a moment at the beginning of therapy where I ask “how did that feel?" I am met with a curious look and “I don’t know” is usually the answer. From there the journey towards self-awareness begins.
We humans prefer to feel good; this goes without saying. But it is not possible to feel good all of the time. Our desire for constant happiness leads to other feelings such as frustration or despair. We learn from an early age that we shouldn’t show negative emotions - we are told to “stop crying” or “calm down.” We develop strategies to hide or prevent these emotions, for example not speaking up or avoiding situations.
It’s easy to focus on the difficult things happening in our lives without even noticing our body’s responses to them - the little messages within the body telling us that we are feeling stress, tension or fear. Regular mood tracking helps us to start noticing the patterns and triggers that cause us to feel uncomfortable emotions.
Many factors can affect our mood; internal triggers such as sleep, hormones and diet, or external ones such as other people’s behaviour and the situations we face in our daily lives.
Regular mood tracking allows us to start noticing the triggers that cause us to feel uncomfortable emotions. Once we become aware of our triggers, we can choose how we react to a situation and this stops us getting stuck in repeated negative behaviour patterns.
Feelings come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, durations and intensities. These feelings can provide us with very useful ‘self-management’ data, which combined with a willingness to accept all our emotions can be a game-changer. The more we allow feelings to flow, the more we connect with ourselves and the world we live in.
Our goal is to change our focus from seeking happiness or trying to avoid unpleasant emotions to developing a better relationship with our experiences as they happen. This helps us to make informed decisions and be less reactive - and over time to form more meaningful connections and lead a purposeful life.
Give it a go and see what you notice.
5 tips for tracking your mood
Use a journal or an app - something with a weekly/monthly view will provide good insight.
Add comments about what you are doing and who you are with – this will highlight links between situations, activities and your mood.
Be consistent and regular in your tracking to see if patterns emerge.
Create checkpoints in your day, set reminders and make it a habit
Tune in to how feelings feel in your body, where do you feel them? Try and put a name to the feelings
Use the Mood Check-in feature in your OK Positive app to track your mood throughout the day. We’ll show you mood insights and patterns over time, with personalised content to help support your journey towards better mental health