Human psychology is a difficult subject that is changing every day. Developing self-awareness, mental health awareness and retaining positive mental health are becoming increasingly important in today's technological society. Here are 10 tips to help you track your mental health the right way.
1) Write down your goals for treatment
In a professional tone: If you've been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, you know the importance of keeping track of your symptoms and how your treatment is going. [It all goes towards improving your body's wellness as well as your mental wellness.] While it can be difficult to know what exactly to look for, there are some things that you can do to get started. One of the most effective strategies for tracking your progress is to write down your goals and then create lists of all the ways in which they might be accomplished. For example, if you have a goal to lose weight, it might help to create a list of diet changes that will support this change. If you want to improve your mood and focus on positive thoughts more often, then create a list of ways to keep yourself calm when things feel overwhelming.
2) Identify what makes you feel happy and sad
When you're in a bad mood, it's easy to get down on yourself. You may feel like you want to fix your emotions, or that there's something wrong with you for feeling that way. But processing your emotions is the first step in accepting them and moving past them. Accepting that there are things that make you happy and things that make you sad is a healthy way to begin processing how you're feeling.
It can be as simple as making two lists: one of things that make you happy, and one of things that make you sad. If a certain person makes you happy, write their name down. If the thought of a certain chore makes you unhappy, write it down.
Try not to judge what goes on your list; if something makes you feel the way it does, then it's important to identify why so you can better understand your feelings and what triggers them. This is not an exercise in fixing yourself or centering yourself around positive feelings—it's simply a creative way to track your mental health and see what works for you and what doesn't. There are no wrong answers here; if something makes you happy or sad, it's okay to let yourself feel those things about it!
3) Use a calendar
If you're someone who struggles with mental illness, a calendar can be a useful tool to help you keep track of your symptoms and the ways in which they fluctuate. You may want to record when you have panic attacks, or when you experience extreme mood swings. You could also use it to note when you've taken certain medications or undergone certain treatments, as doing so can sometimes help mental health professionals determine what's working for you and what isn't.
Calendars can also be helpful if you're not struggling with an official mental illness but still find yourself feeling anxious or depressed in response to major life changes. Many people find it useful to track their moods on a daily basis. Even if you're not going through something difficult right now, keeping a calendar could help prepare you for those times when you are. If you know that certain situations trigger your anxiety, for example, and you know the dates of those situations in advance, that knowledge can give you more time to prepare yourself emotionally.
You don't have to get fancy with this; even using a basic paper planner can be extremely helpful. Whatever format works best for you—whether it's digital or paper—there are lots of different ways to put calendars and other tools like them to work for your mental health.
4) Take self-portraits
The way we look at ourselves directly affects how we feel about ourselves. If you're depressed or anxious, you can't see yourself objectively. You're likely to focus on negative things and magnify them, like your perceived flaws. On the other hand, if you're happy and feeling good, you tend to gloss over your ‘flaws' and focus on more positive attributes.
In recent years, mental health advocates have begun using self-portraits as a tool to help people track their mental health. Taking a picture of yourself every day is not only fun, but it also helps you maintain perspective on your moods and feelings. It's also a great way to document the changes in your appearance that often accompany depression or anxiety—changes like weight gain or loss, skin problems, or even changes in posture. By taking pictures on a regular basis, you can track these physical changes that are often the first indicators of an issue with your mental health. If you notice any of these changes happening over time, it might be time to talk to someone about what's going on with you.
5) Make lists of things you like about yourself
Creating a list of things that you like about yourself can seem silly, but it’s a great way to track your mental health. When you write down a list of all the things you like about yourself, you should be able to find some positive traits that you might have forgotten existed. It also helps to get your mind off of negative emotions associated with your depression or anxiety, and it allows you to focus on something more positive.
You may even want to start writing down a memory or an event that made you happy. Then, write down the reason why it made you happy. For example: You got a perfect score on your math test, because you studied extra hard for it and worked through problems until they made sense to you! Or maybe: You got promoted by your boss.
This is also a good time to think of accomplishments big and small that have happened in the last year. Maybe this was the year that you finally applied for your dream job or started saving money for a vacation. Maybe this was the year that you finally got out of bed before noon on weekends! Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to take credit for those accomplishments!
6) Color in a mandala coloring book
Coloring in a precise, repeating pattern is a form of art therapy that can help relieve stress and anxiety. The creative process of drawing and coloring mandalas can also be an effective way to track mental health over time. As you color in your mandala, take note of the colors you chose and how it made you feel at the time. If you're feeling rushed or anxious, your coloring may appear haphazard. Conversely, if you're feeling calm and relaxed, your coloring will likely be more precise and thoughtful. You can keep a journal of each mandala you color, noting the date when you colored it and how you were feeling at the time. You can also keep track of whether or not you were taking your depression medication on that particular day. This will help you recognize patterns in your moods that may correlate with certain events or times of year—and as a result, will help you improve them quickly.
7) Create a vision board
Many of us have our favorite things—hobbies, activities, songs and more—that somehow leave us feeling refreshed and renewed. Maybe you feel energized by a great workout. Or your creative side lights up when you're able to express yourself through art. Whatever it is that makes you feel good and helps you cope with life's challenges, the thing is, it's unique to you!
One such way to capture those feelings is by creating a vision board—a collection of images and words that depict what inspires you. Since a vision board is so incredibly personal, it helps you focus on your individual needs and what makes you happy. You can include anything that inspires positive emotions: photos of people who make you laugh or smile, phrases that are meaningful to you or quotes from people who inspire you. The possibilities are endless!
The best part about creating a vision board? There's no right way to do it! There are no rules about what goes on your vision board—it can be as simple or elaborate as you'd like. What matters most is that it expresses who you are and what makes you feel good.
If getting back on a normal routine proves too difficult, don't hesitate to reach out for help. There is no shame in seeking assistance when you're feeling overwhelmed. You deserve to have a fulfilling life, and quitting is never the answer. Keeping track of your mental health can be gratifying and empowering, but – more than anything – it's always best to seek professional help from a psychologist if you need it.
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