Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tracking Your Moods With a Mood Diary

An important step in changing your mood is understanding it and recognising patterns and events that affect your emotions. There are many exercises out there to help with tracking and changing moods. Here, I am only going to explain one of the simplest. Because starting any therapy is difficult when you are depressed/manic, these easy mood diary can help get you started on designing a treatment plan. For those with severe mood disorders, these charts should be reviewed regularly (weekly if possible) with your doctor or therapist. There may be things that are difficult for a person in distress to recognise, while someone who is trained to look for certain patterns might have an easier time in helping you identify what is working and what isn’t.


The design of each diary listed here is basically the same. Each has a section where you rate your mood for the day as well as record any medications you took and how much you slept. The only real difference between the different diaries is aesthetics, so choose whichever one is easiest for you to fill in.


Try to set aside a few minutes at the end of the day to complete the diary. You don’t need a lot of time, nor should you spend your pre-bedtime evening ruminating about any stressful events that occurred during the day. This is simply a mood tracker, not a mood changer.


You will notice the diary has a small space on it for daily notes to record any significant events. Do not try to over-analyse these events. Keep it simple using the space provided. Your therapist may have you working on other exercises as well, or you may be keeping a personal journal, but for this exercise try to keep things simple. I know this isn’t easy; emotions don’t rate on a scale of 1-10 and sometimes there are combinations of events that lead to a specific feeling or action, but try to record what YOU think is most relevant. Again, this doesn’t mean you have to limit how you describe how you feel in other areas (writing, talking to friends or a therapist), it’s just for this particular work.


For women, if the chart type you choose to use does not include an area for recording your menstrual cycle, you should add in an extra line for this.


The major benefit of this simple, small task is getting a more subjective view of your moods. Depression can be so strong that it overshadows any times when you were feeling better. It is not uncommon for those with depression to perceive their depression as being constant. This chart can help show you that there are variations in your mood. For very severe depression, this might not be evident right away, so don’t be discouraged, but with regular therapy and/or medication you will start to see some changes. Even if these changes are small, it means THINGS CAN CHANGE.


Each of these charts allows for recording more than one mood during the day if you find your moods are cyclic, which they can be in bipolar disorders. If you rapid cycle, a slightly different approach would be to use arrows on calendar to rate your mood as it changes (see below for an example). It is still important to fill out the mood diary though, recording your most intense manic and depressive episodes for the day.



Chart for recording cyclic moods. The direction of the arrow indicates type of mood; an up arrow indicates positive/manic moods and a down arrow indicates low/depressed moods. The length of the arrow indicates the strength of the mood with longer arrows indicating a more intense mood.


Another way of recording moods in more detail is with an hourly chart rating your mood on a scale of 0 – 10 (with 0 being no depression and 10 being severely depressed). For bipolar moods, I suggest having a scale that ranges from -10 – 10 (with -10 being severely depressed, 0 being no symptoms and 10 being severely manic). What I like about this type of monitoring is that it can give a better idea of how small activities during the day (unlike the one major event recorded in the previous charts) can influence your mood. One drawback of this type of monitoring is that some activities do not have an immediate effect which can lead to some misinterpretation of how the event is affecting your mood, e.g. If you eat breakfast when you wake up at 9am and you have a tendency to feel more depressed first thing in the morning, you might think that eating has no positive influence on your mood. However, during the next hour, your mood will most likely be higher.



TIME

MOOD

ACTIVITY

7AM

-3

Wake, shower, breakfast(cereal)

8AM

0

Watch tv

9AM

2

Go for walk, coffee

10AM

5

Couldn't concentrate on work, watched tv



A slightly more detailed version of the above is to include two more categories, mastery and pleasure. Mastery indicates your sense of achievement at completing the task of the hour in relation to your mood and Pleasure indicates how much you enjoyed the activity.


When recording pleasure in any of these diaries, the scale I suggest using is 0 – 10 (with 1 being no pleasure, 10 being very pleasurable, and 0 being bored). The reason I think it’s important to include boredom in monitoring activities is because it is a feeling that is extremely important, especially in personality disorders which often co-occur with mood disorders, yet it doesn’t fit on the typical scales.


TIME

MOOD

ACTIVITY

MASTERY

PLEASURE

7AM

-3

Wake, shower, breakfast(cereal)

7

2

8AM

0

Watch tv

0

0

9AM

2

Go for walk, coffee

4

7

10AM

5

Couldn't concentrate on work, watched tv

0

0


For geeks like me, or for those who think more visually, graphing how your moods rated during the week/month might be something you want to do.


Also, just ignore any pharmaceutical advertising.


Mood Diary 1 (My Design)

Mood Diary 2 (PDF)



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