There is plenty of evidence to suggest that journaling in some form or fashion is good for our mental wellbeing. Whether it's a daily diary or a gratitude journal, recording details of our day-to-day life in some way helps our brains process our thoughts and emotions and often leaves us feeling happier, calmer and more in control.
But have you ever considered keeping a mood diary?
How does it work?
Many different things can affect our mood day to day, such as having a difficult conversation, being asked to do something new, meeting a good friend, last minute changes to plans or exercising.
Keeping a mood diary allows you to track and understand how certain events, situations and interactions make you feel. The good and the bad. By keeping track of the context of your ups and downs, over time you'll build up a clear picture of what effects your mood and how.
Being aware of the specific scenarios or events that have a negative impact on your mood means you can then take steps to avoid or change them. And even if you can't change them, knowing how they affect you empowers you to take extra care of yourself in those difficult times.
In the same way, being aware of the things that make you feel more positive, means you can start doing more of them to boost your mood more regularly.
Make the connection
A mood diary is especially useful if you've been feeling out of sorts for a while but can't identify a specific cause. Sometimes there is an obvious reason why we feel a certain way. We may have a lot of work on, be arguing with a loved one or worried about our health. But sometimes there isn't an obvious reason. And that can be scary. You may find yourself wondering whether you'll feel like this forever. Keeping a mood diary will help you start to notice patterns in your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which you can then address.
Evidence suggests that one of the main reasons mood diaries have such a positive impact on our mental wellbeing is the sense of empowerment and control they can bring. During periods of low mental wellbeing it can feel as though our minds are not our own. We don't recognise our own thoughts and feelings. By trying to understand our emotions, we are taking the first step towards managing them. Identifying our triggers gives us control of our own mental wellbeing and helps us understand that we aren't doomed to feel a certain way forever.
There are plenty of mood diaries available online, where you can record and track your emotions on the go. But you can also create your own using simple pen and paper. You could make notes and observations throughout the day. Or you could set aside time each evening to reflect on the day's events as you wind down ready for bed. Whatever works best for you.
Here are a few web-based mood diaries, recommended by the mental health charity, Mind, to get you started.
Making sense of it all
Talking things through with someone we trust can also help us make sense of our thoughts and feelings and see situations more clearly.