For those of us with depression or anxiety issues, an important part of managing our condition is recognising how we are feeling, and trying to understand what has contributed to us feeling that way. Many of us might feel there are cycles, or patterns to our shifting moodscape – either time based, or perhaps in response to particular set of circumstances. However it can be difficult to accurately remember how good or bad we were feeling last friday, or two months ago – so it is useful to keep a record.
Of course, there is a good old fashioned pen and paper diary, or log book – but the 21st century has given us many different ways we can capture information about our moods and habits, which helpfully prompt us to complete our scores, and sometimes even offer helpful advice on how to keep on an even keel.
I’ve tried a few, and find them particularly helpful in understanding what’s going on with me. I have a tendency to minimise my distress, say it’s not that bad, but the visualisation of a deteriorating mood over a period of weeks, can help me acknowledge that I need to take action.
Moodscope is an online system which asks you to rate how you are feeling with 20 different emotional flashcards. For example – Jittery, Hostile, Strong, Alert – you rate 0 – very little or not at all, 1 – slightly, 2, quite a bit, 3 extremely. The system gives you a score out of 100% each day. You can see this logged on a chart (30 days/ month at a time on the free version) and make a few notes as to why you were feeling how you were, or what was going on at the time. Another really helpful feature is the ability to set people as “buddies” who will receive an email with your daily score. They don’t get any more of the data – but it can act as a trigger for them to perhaps give you a call and say, “Are you Ok?” if things have been looking bad for a while. And we all know social contact is good for our moods. There are paid variations which give you more information about your moods and triggers – so you could see which areas are contributing most to a high or low score and may need working on. But the free version is powerful enough for me. (I keep a separate log of my scores so I can see the ongoing graph. I could do the same with the individual scores if I were organised enough…)
You get an email reminder to complete your score every day – with an interesting blog from one of the team or a moodscope user.
Mappiness is a study carried out by the London School of Economics, logging people’s mood in relation to where they were in the country, time of day, what were they doing, ambient noise levels etc. The app is downloadable from the App store (iphone/ipad only I think). This time, the app bleeps you a few times a day (you can say how often in the settings, and say when you don’t want to be disturbed, eg. after 10pm) – it registers three different characteristics: Happy / relaxed / awake. Then it asks who you are with, whether you are indoors / outdoors / in a vehicle; whether you are at home, work or elsewhere; and then it asks you what you are doing (from a list of possible activities). If you are outside, you can take a picture if your phone has that capability – and I think it also downloads any ambient noise. You can download your data for your own manipulation – but they also give you some helpful graphs / charts / figures. You can see your scores over the last seven days, your average weekly scores, where you are happier, who with, doing what. I can see from my list of activities that I am happier when gardening and singing than anything else. So why don’t I do these things more? Instead, I spend most of my time online or social media, which is down there in the things which I am miserable doing. Of course it’s a chicken and egg scenario. Perhaps I go online when I’m down – (or I’m just there most of the time anyway, and so more often when I’m down) or I sing when I’m happy. Rather than singing making me happy. But it’s interesting stuff.
Another interesting app is Moodkit – which I admit I only use sporadically. Again, this allows you to log your mood score and take notes about it, but more interesting is the array of tools it gives you to try and improve your mood and challenge negative thinking. It allows you to say how much you have been doing various things, and then it suggests actions you could take to improve things. It also give you the option to select activities to work on specific areas, such as your productivity, social relationships, get more enjoyment out of life, do more physical activity- and several more. There’s a journal, and lots of other options to look through. Indeed writing this I am reminded I should use it more often!