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Fitness and Health Gadgets: Tracking your Life

Track your Mood...or Anything else

Does commuting to work always put you in a good mood? Does a hangover always put you in a bad mood? That’s probably easy to answer, but how about the way having a snack mid afternoon affects your mood – or skipping your morning latte? Do you really get more done if you skip lunch or do you take longer to do the same work because you’re hungry? Are you happier when your work is really absorbing or when you’re sitting around daydreaming?

It takes a commitment to track this much information about your mood.

It takes a commitment to track this much information about your mood.

Turns out our minds wander at least half the time we’re awake, but we’re much less happy when it happens – at least for most of the people who are already using Trackyourhappiness.org, a study from Harvard University that gathers data anonymously but gives you reports from your own answers.

It’s quite a lot of work: you have to fill out a ten minute survey to start, with questions about your background and attitudes – everything from your political views to your relationships to your income to how much you like your life. Then you get requests around three times a day by email or text message (you can set how often, as well as when you’re likely to be awake) to go to the Web site (which is formatted to fit on a smartphone screen) and report how you feel; you need to fill out 50 of them to get a full Happiness Report, which is likely to take two to three weeks (which makes sure it’s representative of a reasonable period of time).

The surveys start by asking you how happy you are then go into about five minutes of background questions; where are you, what are you doing, are you focused on what you’re doing, are you being productive, and so on. Obviously you have to be honest for it to work – and if you’re having a great time out with friends you won’t want to hunch over your phone for five minutes tapping the screen to say how happy you are. But if you do take the time to answer, you can understand more about what affects your mood.

Track anything you want on Daytum; but if you don’t pay for the premium service, it’s all public.

Track anything you want on Daytum; but if you don’t pay for the premium service, it’s all public.

Alternatively you could track your mood at Daytum.com, along with how much beer and coffee you’ve drunk, what you’ve spent at the movie theatre, how often you’ve been away from home or anything else you can think of, by filling in the details on your iPhone, Android phone or via Twitter.

With a free account you can track up to 1,000 different answers to 24 questions but everything you track is public; for $4 a month you get unlimited items and private results. You could do that for free in a spreadsheet, but Daytum makes good-looking charts – but it doesn’t give you the same correlation as Trackyourhappiness, and you have to remember to update without the regular reminders.