Mood rings are back, if the jewelry preference of some of my undergraduate students is any indication. Invented in the 1970s, popularized again in the 90s, and potentially making their comeback today, mood rings promise the wearer a constant gauge of their mood. Black for stressed, blue for relaxed, pink or purple for excited, and so on.
Of course, what mood rings actually monitor is merely the temperature of the finger of the wearer. The rings contain thermotropic liquid crystals, which twist according to temperature to reflect different colors. In other words, if you have your hands around a hot cup of coffee or recently worked out, you’re going to see a “happy” color, no matter what you’re feeling inside.
While mood rings aren’t complex enough to monitor something as nuanced as human emotion, they tap into our natural desire to both name and understand our emotions. When we track our mood on a daily basis, we increase our awareness of what we are feeling and why.
This kind of self-tracking promotes self-regulation and helps us stay in healthy emotional states. It might require more thought than glancing at a color, but it will be more accurate and provide much more value. Let’s examine three powerful benefits of tracking your mood.
Spot patterns to set goals and gain control
From a paper-based calendar to a digital app, there are many easy ways you can track your mood. It doesn’t matter so much how you do it, as that you tune into and log your mood on a regular basis. Aim for once daily to start. I typically recommend sometime in the evening, so you can take stock of your overall mood near the end of the day.
Logging your general mood (very good, OK, bad, etc.) along with specific feelings you’re experiencing in that moment (excited, hopeful, nervous, scared, frustrated) establishes a long-term record of your mood. This makes it easier to spot patterns, identify trends and triggers, make positive changes, and track progress over time.
Do more of what works to accelerate progress
Tracking your mood over time can give you an indication of how well you’re doing managing your mood. It’s a great primary indicator of how you’re doing on reaching your goals. Without mood tracking, it’s easy to miss real progress you are making. You are doing better…right? With mood tracking, you can look back and know. The proof is right there in your log.
To get even more out of mood tracking, log your mood alongside health habits like physical activity, social interaction, number of hours slept each night, caffeine and alcohol consumed, etc. By doing this, you can make connections to what health habits influence your mood and discover what works best for you. For example, you may determine that about seven and a half hours of sleep is your sweet spot. Less than that and you feel drained, but more than that you feel groggy. That’s an insight you wouldn’t have uncovered without tracking!
Gain awareness and find red flags
While the wins are worth celebrating, it’s important to note that progress is often not linear. You may have as many downs as you do ups for a period of time. Mood tracking can also increase your awareness of red flags, or cues that something may be amiss. For example, you may notice that falling out of your regular exercise routine in the past week has made you feel lower emotionally and less energetic.
Without mood tracking, it can be easy to dismiss the “valleys” of our progress as everyday life—just something that happens, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Mood tracking helps us gain awareness and control over that red flag. I Your first step can be self-managing with good health habits and other tools on the Sanvello app. But if you notice you’ve had a string of bad days despite your best efforts, you may decide to seek support from a friend or mental health professional, rather than keeping it inside. You can get the help you need before your mood deteriorates into more severe symptoms.
Try it out
Checking in with yourself each day encourages you to be in the moment, helps you work on problem areas, and tracks your progress to the goals you’ve set. If you’re currently in therapy, you likely have a session about once a week to touch base. By making mood tracking a habit, you’re touching base with you and your progress every single day—and you can also share those trends with your provider if you wish.
Mood tracking is central to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): It helps us really see the link between any effort that we make, and our thoughts and feelings. Try it out for a week and see what you discover. You may be surprised by what you learn and the connections you can draw!
By Dr. Patrick Raue
Clinical Psychologist and Sanvello Clinical Advisory Board Member
Patrick J. Raue, PhD is Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from SUNY Stony Brook in 1995.
Dr. Raue is Associate Director for Evidence-Based Psychosocial Interventions at the AIMS Center, and Director of the National Network of Problem Solving Therapy Clinicians, Trainers & Researchers. In these roles, he develops and leads implementation and training programs in a variety of behavioral health interventions.