“How are you?” the inconspicuous app asks me for the 365th time in a row.
“Meh,” I reply, tapping the middle emoji with an expressionless line as its smile.
Adding the different icons to illustrate my day I finish adding my mood for the day and think, “Has it been a whole year already?”
It feels like just yesterday that I started tracking my daily mood to better understand what makes me tick.
“Tick tock,” and all that.
Along the way, I got to know myself a lot more but also realised that I’m not nearly as miserable as I thought.
And if the first six months were about understanding what and why I felt things, the consecutive six months were about managing those feelings and not letting them get the best of me.
It was about teaching my well-trodden neural highways to take new scenic routes where Bad days could become a little more bearable.
And whilst I had no intention of making Good days better—I was perfectly happy with them being good—it seems that my efforts had a more holistic effect.
Since last time I’ve renamed Rad into Fantastic and Awful into Fucking Awful because who doesn’t enjoy a little hyperbole in the day?
Total mood count: 78 Fantastic days, 218 Good days, 60 Meh days, 6 Bad days and 3 Fucking awful days.
Overall, at a 3.99 average score over the entire year, most of my days were in fact Good days.
Meanwhile, migraines and running injuries were the only contributors to Fucking awful days.
And whilst Thursdays’ isn’t my best day, it’s interesting to note that during the year, I never had a bad Thursday.
But that’s the aggregated data.
It’s the big picture perspective, which although useful, doesn’t help much in my day-to-day life with all its ups and downs.
It tells the story from a satellite view when what I need is a turn-by-turn direction for those crucial junctions where my otherwise unmanaged mood would take me down those well-trodden routes again.
Which is why I turn to psychology, to see if there were ways I could manage my moods when they needed to be managed.
Maturing is realising how many things don’t require your comment. Rachel Wolchin
From acceptance to tolerance
Defence mechanisms are defined as things that reduce anxiety from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli.
The mechanisms themselves are grouped into different levels of “adulting”; from Psychotic, Immature, Neurotic to finally Mature—i.e. the, “You’re an emotionally healthy adult now.”
To determine where on the scale of “adulting” I fall I would need to complete the Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ-40, Andrews, Singh, & Bond, 1993).
Ideally, I would complete that and the Symptom Checklist 90; revised (SCL-90-R; Derogatis, 1983), a self-report measure of psychiatric symptoms, on an annual basis to learn which areas I need to focus on.
But I haven’t been able to get my hands on either manual yet and there are concerns that the face validity of DSQ-40 is insufficient and should be replaced by DSQ-28 anyway.
So for now, let’s focus on all the Mature mechanisms that psychology suggests I should be able to use to navigate the road ahead.
They are; Acceptance, altruism, anticipation, courage, emotional self-regulation, emotional self-sufficiency, forgiveness, gratitude, humility, humour, identification, mercy, mindfulness, moderation, patience, respect, sublimation, suppression and tolerance.
Woah, that’s actually a lot more than I thought.
A quick assessment, using a shortened version of DSQ-40, the DSQ-14 web version, suggests, that whilst I have some mature ways of coping with things I also have quite a few neurotic mechanisms to work on.
68. When I have to face a difficult situation I try to imagine what it will be like and plan ways to cope with it. Strongly agree.
Which is a healthy and mature way (anticipation) of dealing with it.
Though if I’m honest I think I catastrophise those difficult situations sometimes, which results in my plans being way too constrictive in my effort to control the outcome of that I’ve imagined instead of what really happens.
71. After I fight for my rights, I tend to apologise for my assertiveness. Agree.
Which is a neurotic way (undoing) of dealing with my actions.
Psychology says neurotic mechanisms are quite common in adults and fine for short-term coping but become problematic when used as a primary way of coping.
In other words, I shouldn’t apologise for fighting for my right.
I clearly still have areas to focus on and mental models to change to mellow these moods of mine.
But at least now I know where to look.
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. Marcus Aurelius
As I enter 2019, determined to continue tracking my moods, I’m finding Daylio itself a little lacking in nuance. Its one-dimensional abstraction isn’t enough and I wish it was more multidimensional.
I’ve been looking for alternatives but haven’t been able to find one that manages to include the scientific rigour of clinical studies with Daylio’s ease-of-use.
Maybe I need to learn how to make Android apps so I can make it myself?
Meanwhile, it feels like the landscape has changed and these new scenic routes are giving me more joy and tranquillity than before.
And although I still have quite a few mature coping mechanisms to learn, I don’t feel as overwhelmed by my moods as I used to be.