One great way to build up healthy habits is to track them over time. When you monitor the things you do to support yourself, you can see the effects on your life. And having first-hand evidence that an action helps your mood, self-esteem or clarity of mind makes it a lot easier to do.
Keeping track of your mental health over time can also help you see where you’re at, and what to keep in mind. Here are some ideas of things to track, and tips on how to do it.
Modern technology makes it easier to track our behaviour than ever. There are literally thousands of apps and devices for tracking almost everything you do. A lot of smart-phones already come with apps that you can use to measure everything from your number of steps to hours of sleep. Some of these apps are also gamified – made to be fun so you’re more likely to use them.
The apps that work best are the ones that keep the change you’d like to make in the back of your mind. Here are some fun focusing apps that people have found helpful.
Even though these apps are super handy, it's good to know where you data is and what's being done with it. Remember that most apps are made by private companies, and a lot of them keep the data that you enter into them to sell to advertisers. Make sure you’re OK with that before getting started, or look for apps produced by non-profits.
You don’t need to buy an expensive wrist device, when jotting stuff down will do. In fact, writing something down in a journal or piece of paper stuck to your wall before bed can be a great ritual to get into.
Track your mood
One great way to start is to set up a calendar or journal and rate your mental health out of five each day. This only takes a few seconds to do, and can quickly give you great information on the patterns of your wellbeing.
When we’re going through a tough time, it's helpful to look at things from a bigger point of view. In the middle of a really hard day it might feel like everything’s going terribly. But when we look at our mood over time, it’s clear that things aren’t like that all the time – we might see that we’re having fewer of those hard days than we used to. Hard moments are temporary, and, like everything, eventually pass.
You can also notice the things in life that don’t help your headspace – like assignments, arguments or challenging times at work – and think of ways to prepare for them.
Track your sleep
Getting a good amount of high-quality sleep can do wonders for your mood and your mind. Write down how many hours of sleep you get per night. Once you’ve worked out your patterns, look for ways to increase your sleep by hitting up bed earlier or adjusting other parts of your life. Check out our tips on how to get better sleep for a healthier headspace.
Track your movement
Our mind and body are closely connected. Getting active can help you have more pleasant emotions, more sense of control and a clearer headspace. As with a lot of these changes, it’s a good idea to start small and build things up over time.
Let's say you go for a jog once a week. When you do that consistently, and note it down over time, you can see the progress you’ve made. And if you notice jogging once a week does help you feel better, why not double that benefit?
Track your tracking
Tracking is a proven strategy that’s helps a lot of people with their mental health, but that doesn’t mean you need to track every single detail of your life. For some people, the idea of monitoring a lot of what they do can feel stressful and intrusive. If the thought of logging every morsel you eat freaks you out, don’t do it! Remember, these suggestions are here to support you.
The important thing is to stick to your tracking, even when you can’t be bothered. And if you forget, there’s no need to give up – remember you’re just learning how to do this, and starting again is part of the process.
Tracking is a whole lot easier when you’ve got support. If you’d like to speak to an expert, get in touch with your local headspace centre today.