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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

The Magic of Marking down Your Mood Every Day

The Magic of Marking down Your Mood Every Day

Let me ask you a question: what emotions did you experience today? Were you happy? Sad? Frustrated or anxious? Recalling your emotions from the last 24 hours is pretty easy but what about yesterday? Or last Friday? It starts to be a bit hard. What if I’m asking you about last month?

Emotions affect us every minute and every second. When you feel anxious at work, you’re more likely to make mistakes and it’s harder to come up with great ideas. When you’re frustrated for unknown reasons, you lose motivation and would just like to lie on your bed doing nothing. When you’re angry with someone, you unconsciously treat others angrily too. Losing track of emotions means losing track of all these. You’ll never know the reasons and patterns and hence never be to solve the issues and improve the situation.

Emotions should be approached like money

People treat money with so much importance yet they can be so dismissive of their emotions and how they affect them. When we have less money than we’d like, we’ll automatically tune our spending and keep track of where it’s going and how much we have – adapting our spending habits accordingly. In other words, if one doesn’t keep track then there’s no way to tune and improve it.

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This is how emotions should be approached. By putting the same importance on how we feel, acknowledging why we feel a certain way and what’s caused it, we’re able to tune better into identifying and handling emotions in a more positive way.

3 things to mark down every day

Throughout any given day, write down the following:

  1. Your general emotion of the day
  2. The events of the day
  3. The link between your emotion and what happened

You’ll notice your emotions fluctuate on different days. This is completely normal. After all, we’re human and it can be difficult to control what happens to us and how we respond to them so it’s important to give yourself a bit of understanding.

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      Because of this, it’s impossible to always maintain a happy mood so don’t put pressure on yourself to consistently feel positive emotions.

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        Once you start tracking your moods and the events of the day you can start to see the connections between them. Reviewing your emotions means being able to see what exactly makes you happy, anxious or sad. You might not know rainy days make you sullen before. You might not be aware initiating a greeting to your neighbor can make you feel energetic for the rest of the day until you mark all these down.

            You can use excel or mood apps such as Mr Mood which can help you see correlations more clearly. Try it out for a few days but keep it general – try to not rate your mood by the hour as it’s more likely to fluctuate in smaller time frames. Instead rate your overall mood of the day along with the events that occurred.

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            Over time, although fluctuations still exist, you’ll see your mood is boosted overall as you cultivate more positive experiences and curb negative ones once you identify what they are. Previously bad weather made you feel sad, now you still feel a bit sad but you know how to make fun out of it by staying at home doing things you’ve always wanted to do but postponed. Previously you would only be happy when your manager noticed your efforts and recognized you. Now you realize how important recognition is to you after marking down your mood every day. And you’ve decided to recognize yourself whenever you think you’re worth it, even if no one noticed your efforts.

              “If you want to change the visible, first, change the invisible.”

              You’ll find that taking care of your invisible emotions actually means taking care of every aspect of your life. That’s the magic.

              More by this author

              Brian Lee

              Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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              Published on April 9, 2021

              What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

              What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

              Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

              What Is Mindfulness?

              Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

              Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

              However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

              It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

              Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

              Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

              The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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              How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

              Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

              Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

              Benefits on Your Mental Health

              Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

              • Autonomy
              • Agreeableness
              • Conscientiousness
              • Competence
              • Empathy
              • Optimism

              Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

              Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

              MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

              • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
              • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
              • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
              • Prevention of major depressive disorders
              • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

              However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

              Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

              Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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              To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

              Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

              Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

              What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

              Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

              • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
              • Awareness of the present moment
              • Openness to experience whatever comes up
              • Acceptance that the mind will wander
              • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

              A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

              There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

              Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

              Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

              The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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              1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

              Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

              The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

              2. Breathing Meditation

              Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

              In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

              The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

              3. Body Scan Meditation

              A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

              When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

              4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

              In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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              Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

              The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

              In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

              Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

              Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

              Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

              There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

              Final Thoughts

              Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

              It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

              More About Practicing Mindfulness

              Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
              [2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
              [3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
              [4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
              [5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
              [6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
              [7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
              [8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
              [9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
              [10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
              [11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
              [12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
              [13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
              [14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
              [15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
              [16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
              [17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
              [18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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