Two months of moods


(Narrative camera pic of where I keep my onions)

Starting last October I decided to do some mood mapping, writing down my feeling of well-being and energy levels based on the technique I heard about from Liz Miller, at the last European Quantified Self Conference (see her web page). Think of a grid where the x-axis is your feeling of well-being, from -5 (in the dumps) to +5 (very happy), and the y-axis is your energy level from -5 (exhausted) to +5 (Olympic champion). So in the morning, shortly after getting up I would think of my levels and write down the two numbers (for example 3, 3 on a good morning). Then I set a timer on my wrist watch to go off every hour, to remind me to write the next mood. It was easy to do and only involved pen and paper, no fooling around with apps and wondering where the data is going or how to download it later. When I was in a very positive or negative mood, it was also easy to write down a few words of explanation beside the numbers. The surprising thing for me is that I kept this up every hour of every day for two months!

So now, here on Christmas vacation, I copied all the numbers from my log books to an excel file, then graphed the data. I first made a type of Cartesian mood grid to see where most of the points lay.  According to the mood mapping method, if most of the data points in a given day or week are in the top right, that indicates an “Action” type of mood, bottom right “Calm”, bottom left “Depression” and top left “Anxiety. So my 791 data points suggest I’m mostly in an Action mood (Figure 1).




I don’t really see myself as an action man, or at least thought or hoped I could show up more in the calm quadrant, but I generally feel that I have quite a bit of energy and am curious and like to do things. In an earlier blog I said that I thought maybe I was more creative at lower energy levels (but with positive well- being), i.e., in the Calm quadrant, but the data seem to suggest otherwise. I feel that I’ve had several creative moments in the last months, and I was most always in the Action quadrant so possibly I don’t need to be calm or have low energy, at least in the way I was measuring it.

I also graphed the data in terms of days (see Figure 2), how it varied over the last two months, looks a bit like a roller coaster. My overall average well-being was 3.06 for the whole period, and 2.89 for energy. I guess I’m pretty happy about that. There are high and low points, the lowest was -2.0 (three of those) for well-being and the highest a 5 (21 of those). In terms of days of the week, the happiest days were Tuesday and Saturday, not sure why the former, but Saturday is usually relaxing time with the family. And in terms of hours of the day, I reported being in a better mood around meals, like breakfast, lunch and supper.




There was a very significant (P<0.0001) correlation between well-being and energy (Pearson correlation coefficient 0.70), they usually went hand in hand. It’s hard for me to think about having positive emotions while being exhausted, with few exceptions. So, as you can see in Figure 2, the difference between the well-being and energy lines is rarely more than 2 units. When it is large however, I found it tended to be the well-being side that was lower, and the energy higher.

Just for fun I also compared my moods to my fitbit data, the number of steps I take on a given day, but there was no significant correlation. That was a bit of a surprise since I’ve always liked the motto “mens sana in corpore sano”. I wasn’t running or training during this period however, maybe if I was jogging regularly I would have more of those higher well-being scores with lower energy, don’t know.

As an final comment, I’m quite surprised I was able to keep up the mood mapping for two months, writing down two numbers every hour of every day from about 6 am to 10 pm. I’m not sure if that is a testament to how important mood is for me or that, having my log book, it’s quite easy for me to incorporate new habits, on top of what I already do.


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