If you want to figure out where to intervene with habit change in your life, mood tracking can be an enormous asset. Tracking our mood over time allows us to hone in on the times of day or activities that bring us down, as well as to spot the things that lift us up, motivate us, and propel us forward.
This is an area where technology is a huge asset. Mood tracking is a pain in the butt on pen and paper, mainly because, well, remembering to track your mood requires developing a whole new habit! And for those who do have experience developing a habit of tracking mood on paper, you probably developed a habit of doing it at a specific time of day each day, such as first thing in the morning or right before bed. The problem with this is that you cannot capture the richness and variability of mood states through a daily mood tracking habit.
Well, fortunately… there is an app for this. Many, actually.
I’m going to review two mood tracking apps I really like today, and lay out the pros and cons of each one so that you can make an educated decision for yourself. Both are available on both IOS and Android, so no excuses: you are downloading one today!
Option 1: iMoodJournal
Google Play: $1.99
iMoodJournal is a gorgeous and user friendly app. It offers mood analytics on a level I have never encountered before on other mood apps. This app is not going to give you much data in the first month, but it makes up for it if you are willing to commit to it fully for more than a few weeks. iMoodJournal doesn’t have a free version, but it’s a one-time purchase and there are no ads after purchase.
The interface allows you to custom code your mood colors. So the shamelessly girly color scheme to follow in the screenshots is all me. The default scheme is orange/red.
When you record a mood, it gives you this scale ranging from “Insanely Great” to “Couldn’t Be Worse.” After you select a mood it gives you the option to add a diary entry and a selfie. Pretty simple. Here’s a view of the history tab which charts your mood entries:
One of the things that makes iMoodJournal genius is that you can set them up to ping you at random during a certain time range during the day.
I have mine set to ping me randomly three times a day between 8am and 8pm. That way it captures me at a variety of times. As you’ll see in a minute, that data is important. If you don’t have time to respond to the ping that minute, it will wait for you as a smiley face reminder in your task bar until you get to it or manually swipe it to close it.
The truly interesting stuff was only available after logging 3 times a day for nearly a month. But once it was, I was fascinated. The app provides personal mood analytics for time of day, day of the week, and month to month. Here’s a snapshot of my average mood across the week:
When I first saw this, I had a big ah-ha moment that has helped me shape and hone my habits and weekly activities. First of all, apparently I’m a pretty happy gal, so that’s nice to know. But interestingly, I’m on average happiest in the middle of the week – on Hump Day! I’m actually the most variable in my mood on the weekend.
What is going on?
Well, first of all, this is validating in that my 9-5 job actually makes me pretty happy. My peak mood per hour was around noon. So apparently mid-week, mid-day, I’m completely in my flow. On the weekend, when I don’t have much structure, a lot is left up to chance. It’s also when I have to get things like laundry done. I don’t do laundry on a set schedule, meaning it ends up being the LAST thing I do when I am completely running out of socks. Therefore since I wait until I have to do it, it often ends up disrupting other weekend plans. After I saw this I started scheming on ways to create more structure in my weekend chores. This way I can hit that flow state and feel productive and accomplished throughout the weekend, the same way I do mid-week.
Cons of iMoodJournal?
There is only one that I can find, but it’s an important drawback to mention. There is no way to track activities other than writing a diary entry. So some of my entries have little context to them, and there is no easy way to track over time what types of activities bring me joy or sorrow. If you are hoping to learn more about what makes you glow and what makes you crumble behavior wise, this might not be the best interface for that. But overall, I find this app intuitive, beautiful, and incredibly insightful.
Option 2: Daylio
Google Play: Free or Premium $3.99
Itunes: Free or Premium $2.99
Daylio definitely has more of a playful emoji-full interface than iMoodJournal, and offers both free and paid versions. I never bothered buying the full version because the ads appeared at the bottom of the screen and weren’t annoying. If I was going to make this my primary mood tracker I would probably invest the few dollars to get rid of them.
As you can see below, Daylio only has a five point mood scale, ranging from “rad” to “awful.” So you get less nuance up front in your mood journal here. However, you can custom name the moods or add new moods with matching emojis.
The place where Daylio shines is in the tracking of behaviors.
Once you select your mood, it advances to a page where you can select your current activities. You can also add activities and have a wide array of emojis to choose from. You can write a diary entry about your mood if you would like. In the picture below you can see that I have added emojis for yoga and meditation.
Over time, Daylio will show you which activities you tend to be doing when you are feeling “rad” or not so rad. You can search for what you have been up to when you’ve been “rad” for instance. I only felt “rad” once over the two weeks I tried this out, and it was right after I finished a yoga class (that hot vinyasa flow tho). I absolutely loved this feature, and could see its potential utility over time.
Unfortunately, the reminders feature is where Daylio fell short for me.
Daylio lets you set 2 reminders for free or an infinite number for paid, but it does not ask reminders randomly, only at set times, and I thought that feature was key to what I personally wanted to measure over time. You can enter your mood at any time manually, but it’s hard to remember to do that. And it’s literally impossible to remember to do it at random, by definition! So if I set it up for 10am and 4pm reminders, Monday to Friday it would just say “work” for my record. I actually considered using another app to randomly remind me to use Daylio. But that seemed pretty convoluted for me. You could also just set up a ton of reminders with the paid version, knowing half the time you might tell the app to bugger off.
Another downside to the reminder system is that unlike iMoodJournal, it doesn’t wait for you in the corner patiently waiting for your entry. The reminder interrupts whatever you are doing on the screen, forcing you to either respond or click a button that says “Oh, not now.” I’m a busy girl, so I unfortunately clicked that button more often than not.
In the end, I decided to stick with iMoodJournal. However, I think both of these apps are stunning in their design and incredibly functional and intuitive to use. I think the choice you make depends on what you are looking for.
Ask yourself: what do I want to know about my mood? Am I interested in setting up new habits around certain times of the day or week where I tend to slip up, or structure new habit around behaviors that I know make me feel RAD or SAD?
If the former, iMoodJournal is the app for you.
If the latter, emoji your way to Daylio.
Or… do what I did and get both! I honestly didn’t mind too much getting pinged by both apps for the two weeks I tried them both out, and I just went with the one I got more out of in the long run.
Which mood tracker are you going to try today? Let me know your reviews and thoughts!