Being able to track and monitor your thoughts, mood, emotions, symptoms, and sensory experiences is arguably one of the central tenets of most schools of therapy. It is nowhere more prominent than in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), where awareness of internal processes is a first step to changing outcomes. For years, techniques such as journaling and monitoring have been used, but this new technological age adds a few extra tools that can be a boon for awareness. But you also have to build the emotional intelligence and discipline to catch what’s going on and translate that into meaningful action. Following are some tips. (Remember that some people will have more stress by using a monitor- if so, practice these same tips without help from Mr. Fitbit).
- Be aware. Occasionally throughout the day, check in with yourself (or a buddy!) Ask if your heart rate, breathing, sleeping, thoughts, or mood fits the goals you have (see #3). Pay attention to little details. Was my heart rate elevated over the holidays because of my activity level, or stress? Did I sleep less last week because of something planned, or because of insomnia? Was I irritable at work? Did I feel anxious around people? If you want to change something, you have to identify what you’re working with first. Allow yourself to take note without spending too much time on any one thing.
- Let an external tracker add to your awareness. Utilize the unconscious observations your tracker makes to correspondingly assist in your own mindfulness. Those of you who have had the helpful feedback of a trusted support can attest to the value of observations made outside of yourself. I, for one, appreciate the occasional fashion police! 🙂
- Identify the goal. What are you trying to accomplish? Better sleep? Getting less stressed at work? Being clear about this in a reasonable way gives you a target to aim for- and helps you see if you need extra resources in getting it done. (See my Setpoints resource to help further.)
- Identify solutions. Once you have tracked your experience and know the goal, then you can apply solutions. Heart rate at 110 while sitting at work? Try some deep breathing and a de-stressing activity. Notice you’re not taking many steps? Take 3 minutes to get up and move. Sleep getting off track? Develop some sleep hygiene techniques. And so on and so forth.
- Be social. Whether you are extroverted/introverted or outgoing/shy, connecting in some way with others is essential to your health. Trackers give lots of options to do this in fun, cute, and challenging ways.
Make it fun, and happy healthy tracking! Sincerely,