Mood Inertia

For the past month or so I’ve been using an application on my phone to track my mood.  It’s called My Mood Tracker, and using it is straightforward: every few hours it pops up and asks how I’m feeling.  I slide a bar around to register a number from 1 to 10.

I started using this app because I wanted to gain some insight into how my mood changes: over short periods of time, over long periods of time, and in response to the events in my life.  Do I wake up happy? Am I cranky in the afternoons?  Does time with Ruby make me feel better?  What about time away from Ruby?  What about exercise, or alcohol, or the vitamin D supplements I’m taking? Are there regular cycles to my mood?

In addition to recording my “mood”, I’m also recording things like alcohol and coffee consumption, exercise, and time I spend at Ruby’s school.  Here’s what the last month looks like:

Last month's mood

So after a month, what have I learned?  Well, my mood is all over the place, but there’s been a nice upward trend.  I haven’t done the crunching yet to figure out any of the overall correlations.

But here’s an interesting thing I noticed: thinking about my mood on a regular basis made me realize how much my past mood affects my current mood.  When I was feeling cranky early in the month, that made me much more resistant to enter an 8, even if I was actually in a good mood.  In other words: a recent history of being in a bad mood made me not want to be in a good mood. And as my overall mood has improved this month, the opposite is also true: a record of higher numbers made me not want to recognize when I was feeling bad.   Even yesterday, after a full day with Ruby and feeling tired and hungry and pestered, I only clocked in with a low of 5 — and that quickly jumped back up to 7.

The inertia of moods is interesting. I think we want to hold on to how we’re feeling because it reinforces the correctness of our previous state of mind.  It’s a kind of personal confirmation bias that operates on a level we probably don’t notice.

I’m hoping to get in at least a full year of recording this info in case there are any annual rhythms I can tease out. And I’ll report back with more analysis in a few months.

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