Why I Started to Track My Emotions (And Maybe You Should Too)
Empower yourself, make positive changes, and improve your mental health
I’ve started to track my emotions, and it’s proving to be an empowering experiment. I’m a relatively self-aware person, but this exercise is fine-tuning that superpower.
By “tracking” I mean I’ve made a “tracker” in my planner. It’s a series of checkboxes with the days of the week on top and a list of emotions on the side.
To keep it simple, I decided to use just the four main feeling groups: Glad (Love), Mad (Hurt), Sad (Shame), and Scared (Confused). Some researchers say there are 6 primary emotions, but this study concludes there are only these four.
Each of the main feelings in those four feeling groups has, of course, many different shades. Here’s a list of the feeling groups and the many different ways a primary emotion can manifest.
Of course, if you decide to track your emotions, you’re not obligated to stick to these four primary ones. Use whichever ones make sense to you—most likely, the shades of feelings you experience most often.
The Benefits of Tracking Your Emotions
What are some of the benefits of tracking your emotions? So far, I’ve come up with three.
1. More Self-Awareness
Some of us have numbed our feelings. Or we’ve been told our feelings are not important so we set them aside.
Tuning into your feelings on a regular basis can help you redevelop the capacity to know and feel them. You may find it difficult to answer when you first ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Ideally, it will get easier with practice.
If it continues to be difficult, you might want to explore why that is with a therapist. Look back to your earlier childhood. When did you first numb your feelings? Is this how you want to continue to live?
Often, when we numb the difficult feelings, we numb the capacity for joy too.
Even if you don’t numb your feelings, you may brush them aside to get on with your day.
For example, I felt grumpy when I woke up this morning. Normally, I would just get out of bed and get on with my day. But this morning I gave a little thought to that grumpiness because honestly, it’s not unusual for me to wake up in that state.
”What is grumpiness?” When I thought about it, I realized it’s a form of anger. What was I mad about? On this particular morning, I felt mad (e.g. grumpy) about not getting enough sleep. I could see how that grumpy feeling also generalized to more things that frustrate me but that I feel powerless to change — like my cats waking me up in the middle of the night multiple times so I never get enough sleep.
That made me ponder, do I really want to feel grumpy about something I am powerless to change? More on that later. But for now, let’s look at a second benefit.
2. More Self-Empowerment
According to psychology, emotions show us our needs. They’re like signs, signals, or messengers.
If we pay attention to the sign, it will dissolve. If we don’t pay attention, the sign will return again and again, potentially creating more stress in our lives. Or the emotions pile up in our unconscious and lead to more subtle forms of distress.
What emotions tell us:
Mad can signify your boundaries have been violated, trust has been broken, or something needs to change.
Sad can show you’re hurting, you’ve lost something, or you’re longing for something you don’t have.
Scared can indicate you’re in danger, challenged, or confused.
Glad usually means life is good at the moment.
For example, if you feel mad, you may need better boundaries. Realizing this you can set or reassert your boundaries. Or you can walk away from a situation that isn’t working for you, another form of boundary setting.
In my cat example, I could go to bed earlier to ensure more sleep.
With sadness, one person may need empathy while another may need space. Realizing this, you can ask for comfort or space.
When you pay attention and track your emotions, you’ll also be able to see what triggers you the most. Then you have a chance to explore the trigger and hopefully heal the original wound.
Feelings can be helpers if we re-orient and see them that way. When you notice and feel your feeling, you can then ask yourself:
What do I need?
What can I do to fulfill that need?
This process can empower you so you no longer get stuck in bad emotional states. You know how to lift yourself up and out.
3. Improved Habits and Mental Health
In this video (at 5:06) on how to use your planner to track eight different things, the person behind the Planner Spot shows how she tracks her emotions and her positive habits on the same page. That way, she can clearly see if her positive habits impact her moods.
For example, if she’s having a low energy day, she can look at her habits and see she missed her walk, didn’t read, and had a bad night’s sleep—the activities that usually make her feel inspired and energized.
Getting a visual on this can be a great reminder to keep your positive habits going.
I know emotions are like clouds in the sky that pass by if you don’t jump up and grab onto them. So, I won’t over-focus on my emotions. But, I will be tracking them to see what I can learn.
Because, I don’t want to get lost in spiritual-bypassing—avoiding painful feelings while lost in spiritual wonder. As such, I think tracking emotions can be a powerful tool for learning to transform them and for both personal and spiritual growth.
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Until Next Time
Most days, I feel peaceful and content. But I know I still have plenty of emotional karma hiding within, ready for the right trigger to expose itself. So, I’m really looking forward to all that I can gain from tracking my emotions.
On another topic, I am so sorry for all the typos in the last issue. Even though I used a spellchecker, I guess someone had a spell on me. I was horrified when I read it immediately after sending.
There also seems to be an issue with either my internet connection or Substack. I constantly get menacing messages and at times, changes aren’t saved. I haven’t figured this out , but I’m hoping too. Thanks for your patience.
And, thanks for reading!
If you’d like daily inspiration, consider joining my Facebook group: The Always Well Within Circle of Joy.
Until next time, stay safe, be happy, and let your love flow.
Sending you all my love and best wishes.
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