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Guest Article by: Patrick Bailey
Learn more at – patrickbaileys.com
Keeping track of your moods can be difficult, even for people without a diagnosed mental health disorder or condition. For those of us living with diagnosed mental health issues or a dual diagnosis, it can be a daily struggle as well as vital to our health.
Effectively tracking your moods and understanding how you feel at certain times of the day or after certain activities can give you more control over when your mood changes.
I’ve been living with bipolar disorder for about 15 years now and keeping tabs on the things that triggered changes to my moods was critical to finding a routine that worked for my health and happiness.
Do I really need to keep a journal?
If you’re unenthusiastic about keeping a journal, I understand. I wasn’t too keen on the idea back when I was first diagnosed, either. The thought of sitting down and writing out long paragraphs about my day just seemed like a chore rather than a tool.
It’s important to remember that:
- Journaling has been shown to help you gain control over your emotions and improve your mental health.
- There’s more than one way to journal. You can alter the way you journal to fit your needs.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider first about what steps are right for you. Journaling is often a good way to better understand why you feel the way you do and this understanding is incredibly important to living a more stable life.
Here are four journaling tips I’ve learned along the way to help track your moods!
1. Scale Your Writing to Your Needs
If you think that sitting down and writing down every detail from your day will help you—or if it’s simply something you want to do—then go for it! But if you’re really balking at the thought of doing so, that’s okay, too.
You don’t have to write a thorough recapping of your day. You can be as simple or as detailed as you like. You can limit the things you write to just the stuff that stands out to you, such as any incident that really impacted your mood in a negative or positive way.
2. Get Creative
When I was struggling to keep a daily journal, I sometimes incorporated some artwork into it. The idea of working with colored pencils and bright colored gel pens was much more appealing than noting things in plain black or blue ink.
With that in mind, I started to color-coordinate my entries to fit my moods. I found that doing this not only held my attention better, but it also made me think about my feelings more thoroughly than I would have otherwise.
3. Make a Graph
Another great way to chart your moods is with graphs. Not only can you get creative with them, but they also allow you to see patterns more easily than skimming a daily list of mood changes.
I keep a few different graphs. I have one that I keep weekly as well as one that I keep monthly—I add to the monthly chart at the end of every week—that allow me to quickly see how my moods compare across several months or even a longer span of time at a glance.
You can also keep daily charts that track how you feel every hour or at different times of the day.
I like to use bar graphs for all of my tracking needs, but you can use other graph models, too. The Internet has a plethora of ready-made outlines you can just fill in.
4. Journal Consistently Every Day
It can be hard to find the time to journal, especially before you have evidence of how it can help you. If you make doing so a priority, however, it will become progressively easier as time passes.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on the activity if you don’t want to. I enjoy playing around with pens and colors, so I can easily spend an hour or so every evening updating my journal and graphs. If you prefer a more streamlined and straightforward process, you can easily complete your journaling in just 10 or 15 minutes a day.
If you’re making your own graphs, you can prepare them over the weekend so that all you have to do during the week is to note each day’s data quickly.
If you have been told to try journaling by your mental health care provider, it doesn’t have to be a chore. If you keep the above tips in mind, you can make the process engaging and easy and a good habit.
Also, check out my post on journaling for mental health for more information!