June 21st 2020
Inspired by his bipolar diagnosis, Dan founded of Misu, a automated mood tracker.
Oftentimes we don’t even realize how we’re feeling. Even when someone asks us, “How are you?” our knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Good.” But are you really feeling good? What is your mood right now? If you had to label how you’re feeling in your body and mind, what would you write down?
So, what does that mean? It’s simple, really, and it boils down to labeling.
Being able to identify and describe your mood is the most important thing you can do. It’s the precursor of change. Many people apply mood-labeling to different areas of their lives to help build habits or change behaviors. Because if you label your mood, you can take control of it.
It’s a simple but often overlooked truth: If you are unaware of how you are feeling, how can you make any conscious changes? It won’t happen. You can’t get to point B if you don’t know where point A is. But if you know how you’re feeling and why, you can take action and affect real, positive change.
I look at three areas to assess my moods. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help label them:
How are you spending your time? How much content are you consuming on Netflix, Twitter and Facebook? What kinds of meals are you having? Are you working in front of a screen more often than not? Are you getting exercise?
Are you having sad or anxious thoughts? Are you less hopeful about the outcome of things such as relationships or business? Are you being critical of others or yourself?
How does your body feel? Are you tense? Are your shoulders tight? Is there a tightness in your chest? Do you feel heavy or sluggish?
Once you begin to track your mood and ask yourself these questions, you’ll very quickly recognize mood fluctuations through your behavior, thoughts, and body. You can then take action towards feeling better.
The ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” is universal for a reason. Recognizing how you’re feeling and why helps you become the best version of yourself. It’s a path towards self-actualization.
Think of it like a health or exercise tracker. Over a quarter of all Americans wear one. These devices tell you when you need to stand or exercise. Mood-tracking is just as valuable and can lead to benefits and improvements for both the body and mind. You use the insights to take action and improve your state to thrive and emotionally flourish.
Here are a few key actions I take when I notice I’m feeling sad or anxious:
1. Mental health treatments
I have bipolar disorder and have been taking lithium, a long-lasting mood stabilizer. I’m grateful that it has worked for me, and there are also non-prescription forms of it. I do recommend talking to a medical professional before taking any supplements or medication, of course.
Exercising helps me a lot. Just doing 20 push-ups in the middle of the day can make a huge difference.
Reaching out to friends and sharing how I’m feeling or introducing peer-to-peer accountability has been key for me. And it doesn’t have to be about anything major — just checking in and feeling more connected can dramatically improve your mood. Planning these check-ins in advance is helpful.
Socialization, exercise, meditation, taking a bath, or other forms of self-care are all things that can help get you in a better mood. I also love lighting candles in the evening.
Cleaning helps me clear my mind. Check in with your surroundings and how you feel in certain spaces. For example, the clutter on your desk may be distracting you from your work.
And yes, sometimes your mood is down and it’s difficult to focus and you may feel even less motivated as a result. I’ve found that action creates inspiration — not the other way around. And when I find myself feeling stuck and uninspired, I do something active and intentional paired with a passive activity, like playing a mobile game while listening to an audiobook. I get that downtime while also feeling like I’m learning and still have some momentum and productivity in my life.
At the end of the day, it all begins with detecting moods. You wouldn’t prescribe medication to a patient without an examination and diagnosis. So how could you expect to improve your mental health without first taking note of how you feel and identifying the behaviors, thoughts, and physical symptoms associated with your state?
Improving my mental health has been a long and often difficult journey, and I hope to help others figure out how to do the same. Start labeling your moods today — either manually or through an app like Misü — and truly take control of your life.