min read
October 24, 2022

How and why I started Mood Tracking

3 years of Mood Tracking: Lessons & Advice (part 1 of 5)
How and why I started Mood Tracking

Series Summary

I take you through my personal journey of my Mood Tracking over the past 3 years. Starting with paper tracking (version 1–7), then onto digital tracking (version 8–10), and the lessons learned.

📝 You can download any of the templates mentioned here.


  • Part 1: How and why I started Mood Tracking (📍 YOU ARE HERE)
  • Part 2: Mood Tracking with Paper: Version 2
  • Part 3: Mood Tracking with Paper: Version 3 to 7
  • Part 4: Digital Mood Tracking: Version 8 to 10
  • Part 5: Lessons learned from 3 years of Mood Tracking

Why I started tracking

💭 You might relate to this.

One day you’re on top of the world. Feeling good. Feeling proud. The next, you’re down, depressed and/or feeling unworthy. Then, days later, you’re back to normal — feeling fine.

What drove me nuts about this emotional flip flop was not knowing why it happened.

But that’s not all!

During these low times, I tend to project my negativity onto my past and my future. Thinking I’ve been stagnant and haven’t really accomplished much, and that things will probably remain the same in the future.

So my goal was to …

  1. Make better decisions. To understand what causes my mood to flip flop. So I can make better decisions by avoiding or promoting certain activities or behaviour.
  2. See the big picture. How my life was doing whenever I (momentarily) believed it was going poorly. Hoping the reality check will snap me out of my melodramatic state and accelerate the healing process.

Origin Story

The idea of mood tracking kicked around my head for a few years before it finally clicked. It happened one late evening at work, while sitting on the loo. I remember it like it was yesterday 💩

The idea was simple: Design and print templates, put them next to my bed, fill it out before I sleep, then manually enter the data into Google Sheets and visualize it at the end of the month!

So that’s what I did.

My First Experiment (Version 1)

My first attempt was very simple. Only asking 3 questions:

  1. Do you feel accomplished?
  2. Do you feel anxiety?
  3. Do you feel stress?

📊 After 4 weeks of tracking, I transcribed the data into Google Sheets and visualized it.

This graph wasn’t very insightful on its own. The data was vague, and the sample was small. However it did clearly show 2 contrasting periods: Turmoil (stress and anxiety) and relative stability.

It was at this moment I realized the potential of data visualization to see trends. Then zooming into areas of interest. Filling in the gaps of what actually happened with the written journals.

Lesson: Data Needs Context

Data visualization will show you interesting tidbits (e.g. trends and relationships). But it can’t tell you the significance of them, nor why they happened. Hence the importance of traceable context when trying to understand what’s going on.

Different types of Anxiety

Anxiety meant a lot of things when I started tracking.

I considered any agitated state as anxiety. For example: We can see two types of “anxiety” in the graph above. One type coinciding with stress, and an other coinciding with a sense of accomplishment.

Paired with stress, the anxiety feels like uncertainty, or fear for what’s to come. Paired with a sense of accomplishment however (i.e. the absence of negative feelings), the anxiety still feels like uncertainty, but this time more in the form of an exciting challenge to come.

Only through many of these experiments did I start to recognize and differentiate between these different types of anxieties.

Lesson: Mood Tracking Sharpens Awareness

Mood tracking sharpens your awareness and diversifies your emotional vocabulary. The constant check-ins force you to look inward. Translating fuzzy, low resolution feelings into words and categories. And as you and your vocabulary evolves, so will your categories.


Enjoyed this? Continue reading part 2 👉