Your mood influences your health.
In fact, it probably plays a much bigger role than you realize.
Research shows that a bad mood can damage your heart, interfere with sleep, and increase your risk for developing dementia. That’s why it’s important to understand your emotional triggers.
Keeping a mood journal can give you new insights into your feelings and emotions.
What is a Mood Journal?
Mood journaling is a form of therapeutic writing that can help you connect with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. A mood journal can help you sort through your emotions—both positive and negative ones.
While there are key differences between feelings and emotions, for the purposes of your mood journal the distinction isn’t necessary. Your emotional experience is unique and personal.
Keeping a mood journal can also help you see patterns in your mood. In some cases, you may even be able to predict how you’ll respond in similar situations, which means you can take preventive measures that minimize or eliminate distressing emotions.
While it’s important to allow all feelings, it’s equally important to enable them to move through you in a healthy way. Finding healthy outlets for your intense emotions can prevent ongoing stress from damaging your health.
Health Benefits of Mood Journaling
Journaling is good for your health. Therapeutic writing like mood journaling has been shown to reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and lessen symptoms of depression—all of which are linked to heart disease, mental health disorders, and certain types of cancer. As a result, using your journal to diffuse confusing and distressing emotions can dramatically improve your health.
Journaling can also boost positive emotions. People who experience more positive emotions have lower heart rates, lower blood pressure, and lower levels of inflammation.
Mood journaling can help you recognize the early warning signs of stress and anxiety, which means you can choose self-care strategies that disperse negative energy before it impacts your health.
Your mood journal can also help you recognize when you need help with managing your emotions. For example, if you repeatedly find yourself journaling about the same unresolved feelings, it may be time to connect with a therapist who can help you unravel what’s behind those feelings.
How to Start a Mood Journal
The good news is journaling doesn’t require any fancy tools. All you need is a pen, a notebook, and a few minutes of your time. Like other forms of journaling, mood journaling doesn’t have any rules. You get to decide what goes on the pages.
Here are a few things to consider as you begin a mood journaling practice:
How much time will you devote to your journaling practice each day? Is 5 minutes enough? Or will you need more time to gather your thoughts?
What time of day will you make entries in your mood journal? You may want to experiment with several different times to see when your thoughts flow easily.
- Morning Mood Journaling: Try journaling in the morning before you begin your day. When your mind is rested and refreshed, your thoughts will flow more freely.
- Mid-Day Mood Journaling: Consider spending a few minutes journaling during your lunch break. Mid-day stressors may be more significant than you realize, and journaling about them in the moment could help you connect some dots between your feelings and emotions.
- Evening Mood Journaling: Experiment with journaling at the end of the day. This gives you a chance to summarize the day’s experiences, and see what is weighing on your mind. Getting your thoughts and feelings out onto the pages of your journal may also help you sleep.
Naming Your Emotions
The more time you devote to journaling, the better you’ll be at recognizing and labeling your emotions. Do you best to put a name to each emotion you experience. (But remember, you don’t have to be perfect. There are no right or wrong answers.)
Examples of emotions:
Tracking Your Emotions
It may be helpful to create a system for measuring and tracking your emotions. You could use smiley or frowny faces, a numbered rating system, or something else that resonates with you.
A tracking system will help you see patterns more clearly. For example, is your mood frequently down on Thursdays? Why is that?
The more questions you ask yourself about the circumstances surrounding your emotions, the more insights you’ll collect.
What to Include in Your Mood Journal
Here are a few things you may want to include in your mood journal:
- Emotional triggers
- Names of your feelings and emotions
- Environmental factors (what led up to the emotions)
- Specific people who stir emotions within you
- How much sleep you had the night before you experienced the emotion(s)
- Physical energy levels
- Events related to your emotions
- Thoughts and beliefs tied to your emotions
- Activities or projects you were working on when you experienced the emotion
- Other factors that may have contributed to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions
How to Use Your Mood Journal
Mood journaling can help you tune into your feelings and emotions on a much deeper level. Once you’ve been journaling for a while, be sure to take time periodically to review what you’ve written.
Look for patterns in your writing. For example, do you experience similar emotions when you face similar circumstances or people? Identify the common threads between your emotions and what you experience throughout the day.
Returning to your journal regularly, you can become a detective, looking for clues and insights that help you understand your emotions on a deeper level.
Consider how you might respond in future situations and journal some responses or actions you could take.
As you experiment with new forms of self-care and emotional management tools, your journal can help you gauge the effectiveness of these tools.
Mood Journal Prompts
Mood journals can help you understand what’s behind your feelings and emotions. If you struggle with deciding what to write about, journal prompts can help.
Here are some journaling prompts to help get you started:
- What am I feeling?
- Where is this emotion coming from?
- When did I last feel this way?
- What would help diffuse this feeling?
- What is this emotion trying to tell me?
- What would my life be like without this thought?
- What is this emotion trying to teach me?
- How do I experience feelings physically inside my body?
Keeping a mood journal can help you improve and maintain good mental and emotional health.
By staying connected to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, it will be easier to find meaning behind them. This information will help you choose more effective self-care strategies to manage intense emotions.
The best way to begin a mood journal is to just begin where you are. Grab a notebook and let your pen do the work of translating your feelings and emotions.
What has been your experience with keeping a mood journal?
Download the START JOURNALING FOR THE HEALTH OF IT® WRITE NOW! course and begin a health journaling practice today.
Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as providing or replacing medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Author bio: STACY FISHER, RDN, LD, CDCES is the founder of LivingUpp, a lifestyle design company that teaches women how to use a self-care planning system to create more ease and better health. She is a registered dietitian and lifestyle coach with 20+ years of experience in the healthcare industry, where she’s worked with large companies such as Dell, Boeing, and Nike. Stacy is the author of The Lifestyle Design Planner, a flexible life organizer for high-achievers who value self-care and simplicity.