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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

  1. Use a journal or an app - something with a weekly/monthly view will provide good insight.

  2. Add comments about what you are doing and who you are with – this will highlight links between situations, activities and your mood.

  3. Be consistent and regular in your tracking to see if patterns emerge.

  4. Create checkpoints in your day, set reminders and make it a habit

  5. 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

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.

In this blog, Helen explores the hardwiring of our brains, and this can send us into fight or flight mode. She also offers some helpful tips to avoid traps and triggers for ourselves.


We thought it might be helpful to give a (very) brief overview of the hardwiring we humans have evolved with. If we can understand this, we are better placed to look out for traps and triggers. By gaining an understanding of this function, we can recognise and respond in ways that will work more effectively for us.


The brain is complex and while we are not in any way neuroscientists, there are three parts of the brain that usually work in perfect synchronisation:



1. The lower brain/ brain stem

The part of our brain that is responsible for survival—controlling our heartbeat, breathing, and other autonomic functions “fight, flight or freeze” -excellent survival strategies (for cavemen -less so for modern dwellers).



2. The mid/ limbic brain

The emotional centre. We refer to this as the alarm threat detect and response control centre.



3. The forebrain/prefrontal cortex

The logical, rational part of the brain. This brain is responsible for the regulation of logic, creativity, problem solving, language, and perspective- the sensible part.



In the presence of threat (real or perceived) brain 1 and 2 close ranks and go into work mode, whilst brain 3 struggles to keep up…can you see where this going? This is a primitive, involuntary response which is essential for our continued survival. It's efficient, perhaps too efficient, but imagine if we did not have this system (the Dodo – now extinct).


So, with the constant news and reminders of this unprecedented global crisis and threat to human life, job losses, isolation, is it any wonder we are feeling this way? In a fear situation like a pandemic our minds and body will react in this way whether you think you're scared or not - anxiety is even more infectious than COVID19. Your body reacts even if your conscious mind doesn't.



Tips on how to manage this


Focus on what is in your control

How coronavirus spreads, the economic situation is NOT within control but how you show up each day IS. Set your goal for the day, structure and routine will give you a sense of focus and purpose. Watch less news and spend less time scrolling through social media – our threat seeking minds like to constantly look for threats, it’s not helpful.


Notice your thoughts and feelings

Our minds never stop thinking, the goal is to be the observer of your thoughts, and not be controlled by them. Allow emotions in. To fight with emotions is like having a tug of war with a monster- the more you pull the more the monster will pull. Let go of the rope and name the emotion, change how you relate to it and let it pass. It's ok not to feel ok.


Communicate with others about how you're feeling

It's likely they can relate (but only if they know). If you are worried about your job then talk to your employers, if you are concerned about your finances, talking to banks, lenders, service providers. These are all things that are within your control.


Engage fully in what you're doing

Pay attention to things in the present moment. Notice how often the mind will pull you back to its chatter, practice shifting attention back to the activity in hand. If it’s a struggle to do this, notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste (5,4,3,2,1 technique). Make this part of your daily routine. Short regular mindfulness practice has been proven to improve wellbeing.



Be aware of your breathing

This sounds so simple, but longer, slower deeper belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and signals to the midbrain (brain 2) that all is well and can deactivate the fight flight response.


Take care of your physical health

Drinking water, eating, and moving also help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which reassures the sympathetic response that all is well.


Consider your personal values

What sort of person do you want to be? How do you want to treat others, yourself and the world? Take action towards these. At OK Positive the values we adhere to are connection, courage, communication and commitment, and there is an endless list of values out there.

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.

In this blog, Helen tells us about taking some time to herself and reflecting on how this made her feel



Today I had my first session with The Impact Guru, Esther, something I have committed to for me. I did not discuss it with anyone, just decided that this is work I have been needing to do for a long time. My career has always been around caring for others, and being a mum also involves muchous caring, so why should it be so difficult to make an investment in me?


After a bright start (due to a left in hair roller), Esther highlighted some things about me that my future audience might like to hear.


I felt a real sense of 'wow I can actually do this'

We closed the session with some action points, but what happened next? I noticed a light feeling and a sense of pride as I took the puppy for a walk, and then ideas started forming in my head (made a change from the endless to do lists).


I also had a real connection with my imposter syndrome, and how as much as it tries to help, it really does get in the way of me doing what I am so capable of doing.

Later that evening, carrying all these feelings, I climbed up Dougle’s hill to admire spectacular views, and watched the most spectacular sunset. I embraced the strong and capable woman I know I am.


And I felt….


on top of the world...this is what happens when we take care of you