Let me think...this emotion is telling me something...I see a pattern emerging: This is empowering! Image courtesy of Farconville at freedigitalphotos.net
As human beings, one of the characteristics that we all share, albeit to different degrees and intensities, is our ability to feel a range of emotions. Even the staunchest individual is not immune to vicissitudes of feeling, and some of us at the other end of the spectrum would classify themselves as being quite vulnerable to experiencing intense emotions quite frequently.
I first entertained the idea of creating a “Mood Chart” for myself, because to varying degrees I noticed myself at times only partially or even unaware of what precipitated changes in how I felt. Sometimes I would notice I harbour quite positive and negative undulations in emotions that I was clueless to what were their triggers.
So, being an odd soul who gains pleasures from self-analysis, I decided to embark upon a self-awareness chart, specifically a “Mood Chart”. There are four columns in this experiment designed to increase self-awareness and personal empowerment, once you experience increasingly frequent revelations of what makes you tick!
The first column is the date, the second column is devoted to an ‘overall rating’ of my mood for that particular day, with the third and fourth columns being any trigger for positive and negative feelings, respectively.
I felt the date was relevant to monitor firstly to see if my mood undulated rapidly, or was remaining quite steady over time. You see, I am a sufferer of bipolar disorder, characterised by highs and lows which vary in intensity and duration between these extremes. To give an example of how this has been useful is that I have observed my mood is quite steady remaining between mostly 4 – 7 out of ten, and doesn’t drastically swing from day to day.
Even for those without a mood disorder, noticing patterns and frequencies can lead to clues about what days may precipitate mood changes, and importantly, why.
A common observation for people for example is that Mondays herald the beginning of a working week. If your mood is significantly higher or lower on this day, this could tell you something important about how you feel about your job. If it’s high, that’s great, and you can use this piece of information to armour you against low feelings. How this works is that if you consistently notice you feel happy when your work week starts, when you feel down for whatever reason, think of your work and this gives you a weapon to boost your spirits.
Conversely, you may notice your mood consistently low, say on Monday after noticing better moods on the weekend. Even though it obviously may not be feasible for you to just change your job ‘just like that’ over the long term, you may begin to gradually, gradually even consider what vocation may inspire you, may be ‘more you’. I know someone who went to uni with me, who worked four days a week, but she studied at uni one day, to gradually give herself the power to know she was working toward a career she decided she’d be happier in. How you feel about work is just one example of how dates can give you insights. Anniversaries of particular events are another revelation of mood changes on particular days can give you greater self-awareness regarding.
What you list in the column “Triggers for a Positive/Negative Mood” may be activities, thoughts, being around certain people – and as much as you may feel you know yourself, that you are very self-aware, you may be surprised at what triggers you to feel happier or more depressed.
Noticing triggers that consistently precipitate a more positive mood gives you a strong weapon – something you know, over time, with increasing confidence the more stable the pattern is, that you can turn to to improve your mood if feeling low, or to maintain a happy mood.
For example, ‘exercise’ is written as a trigger for increased positive feelings for me practically every day. So, I know I can put that in my ‘toolbox’ – I start the morning knowing I have something that will put me in a better state of mind for the day. If I am feeling down, it’s a arrow in my bow, a weapon to fight it.
I notice ‘doing the dishes’ consistently lowers my mood. However, doing them while listening to music improves my mood. This empowers me (albeit using a minor life example, but relevant to major life events) by knowing what I need to do if I follow what I have learned about myself and housework, and what I know will work for me to have a tidier place.
I’ve only been able to come to these conclusions by the way after a period of time of documentation. It can take that long for consistent patterns to emerge.
It’s given me ideas of the kind of people who lift my spirits, or who may be negative (and of course they don’t mean to) but get me down.
I have found this chart of documenting my moods quite eye-opening. There are some things I thought would not have caused me to feel uplifted or down-hearted. One of the reasons for this is often we don’t realise that a trigger will elicit a feeling until after the event.
Mood charts empower us. 1. **Patterns may emerge over certain times (for example anniversaries, days of the week) We can’t say, change the anniversary of a loved one’s death, but knowing we feel sad on that day may lead us to realise that, perhaps we are not over it if we thought we were. Or it may be a positive anniversary, say of your child being born, leading you to recall how much that child means to you, and along those lines, how spending time with them is important to you.
2. Positive emotions are a tool we can use to know that whatever triggered it and be something we consciously can engage in more frequently, for the simple reason is that it’s great to feel good! It can help on a bigger scale, with career choices, help us choose the friends who ‘are good for us’, it can give us weaponry when we feel down.
3. Negative emotions may be a useful tool to realise that yes, certain things we were not aware of do get us down.
Negative emotions can be a clue that we need to change something. For example, a messy house gets me down. Knowing this, I can use a negative to turn it into a positive, with a clean and tidy house leading to what I can presume will be positive emotions.
Your awareness of your emotions is a powerful tool because it tells you what to do more of, what to do less of, and offer you insights into yourself you weren’t aware of.