Memory is affected by depression. In particular, it can be more difficult to remember when you’ve been happy, which reinforces the idea that you’re never happy. Keeping a mood log can help dispel this lie. I first wrote about tracking mood in Empty Cauldrons, and if you find this post interesting than you might decide that you are also interested in buying my book.
Tracking mood is simple enough: just note the first emotion that comes to mind, several times a day. Looking back at the results before going to sleep, or at the end of a week or a month, can reveal surprising results.
As simple as it is in theory, tracking mood can be a royal pain to make into a habit. It involves some combination of memory, planning, and technology. Throw in a large helping of forgiveness, for all the times that you feel like you’re doing it wrong.
Memory might not seem like a solid choice for someone in the midst of depression, especially when the symptoms include brain fog, which is why I recommend reminders with triggering events. The events that work best are ones that take place at regular intervals, or irregularly but not infrequently—at least once a week. For me, a good mix includes whenever I make coffee (1-3 times a day), brushing my teeth (2-3 times a day), cleaning litter pans (ideally every day), and losing the game (which can happen at any time).
Planning might involve setting several phone reminders that go off during the day, or asking friends to check in and ask your mood from time to time. Either of these options can feel overwhelming, and if that’s the case then you really, really should find a way to do this. These are the times when understanding our own moods is most essential.
I have been forgetful, I have been poor at planning, and I have been hesitant about technology, but I still think that tracking mood is very important because it’s one of the early-warning systems that depression is present. Since there may be others in the same boat, I am trying to find tools that will help the widest variety of people. Post-its and other reminders may be enough for some, but as for technology I started with this list of mood-tracking apps. As I said, most of them include a lot of features and privacy flags, but they each are probably a perfect fit for some of us.
All that’s needed to sign up for these reminders is a phone that can receive text messages. Send the message “@moodnow” to 81010, visit remind.com and enter “moodnow,” or download the app to get started.