“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
Having a bad day? You might not be in control of your surroundings, but you can control your reactions to them.
Simply tracking your emotions day in and day out can be a powerful tool for noting patterns and giving yourself a heads up when difficult emotions, such as anger, sadness, cravings or anxiety, might be building to a point where you have trouble controlling them. Members of A Plan for Living know that the Happiness Tracker, combined with the Experience Tracker, can indicate when your emotions are becoming too much to handle.
Step One: Track Happiness
Tracking your mood can be a very effective way to notice warning signs and identify patterns. It’s up to you to decide how often to rate your happiness each day. Maybe it’s once in the morning or maybe you check in three or four times a day.
Step Two: Track Experiences
For each time you track your happiness, note what’s going on with your mood under ‘Experiences’. Woke up gloomy this morning but not sure why? Feel great because your boss gave you a compliment? Craving donuts on a stressful day? Write it all down.
Step Three: Notice Patterns
Over days and weeks do you notice patterns? Are your moods up and down every day depending on circumstances? Feeling low for many weeks in a row? Happier when you’re watching what you eat and get regular exercise? Noticing triggers and warning signs can be helpful for many reasons, but it’s especially important for those with bipolar disorder.
Step Four: Adjust
Based on the patterns you find, you can begin to change your mindset. If your moods are up and down all day, you may need to concentrate on mindfulness to gain control. Or, too many days of a low mood might be a warning sign that you’re slipping into a depressive state and you may need to talk with a trusted friend or schedule more time with your therapist. Recognizing how your mood and experiences drive cravings—whether it’s for food, alcohol or something else, can be the first step to finding a new way to handle difficult feelings and situations.
Step Five: Reboot
Over time, it will become easier to notice when you’re experiencing difficult emotions or circumstances. And, with time, you’ll learn how to regain control before it’s too late. You may need to reach out for help, take a step back and calm yourself, find a stress reliever, make sure you get the sleep rest and relaxation you need or implement any other strategies to protect yourself from a worst-case scenario. By taking the time to notice your mood, record your experiences and learn the connections between the two, you give yourself the power to adjust the situation and keep yourself on track toward happiness.