There are lots of good reasons to track your moods. Noting your ups and downs can help you identify the events, people, or situations in your life that trigger specific emotions, from happiness to depression, anxiety or irritability. Even if you’re not being treated for a particular condition, tracking your moods may help you see what activities in your life make you feel good (“I feel happy every time I go jogging with my friend”), and where you may need to make changes (“I’ve been anxious and down since I got that promotion with all the increased responsibility.”)
“Tracking your moods can give you a wonderful sense of self-efficacy and self-empowerment,” says Cheryl Chessick, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, Denver, School of Medicine. “You can see patterns such as ‘Every time I miss exercising for a few days I start to feel down,’ and take steps to change your behavior to improve your moods. Or you might see that no matter what you do, your mood stays low, which could indicate that you need to see your doctor. Either way, you can learn from keeping a mood diary and use that information to make positive changes and feel some control in your life.”
Most doctors recommend charting your moods for at least one month, but three or more is ideal. To get you started, here is a downloadable mood journal. Try to fill it out at the same time every day (i.e. after dinner or just before you go to bed.) A few pointers:
· Rate your overall mood for each day on a scale of 1 to 7. One means you’re feeling so sad, lethargic, and depressed that you can’t get what you need to get done. A three is what doctors call “euthymia,” in which you’re not especially happy or especially sad, but have the energy and the motivation to do everything you need to do during the day. Five or six means you’re more energetic than usual during the day, but you’re still able to get to sleep at night. A seven means that you’re euphoric—you have so much energy that you feel like you don’t need to sleep and seem to be running on overdrive (what doctors would call symptoms of mania).
· Triggering events are anything that happened to cause a shift in your mood. Maybe you had lunch with friends, or your boss gave you a great annual review and you felt happy all afternoon. Maybe you’re approaching a big deadline and you’re not sure you’re going to make it, or your boyfriend broke up with you, or you found out a loved one is seriously ill, and you felt down all day.