For the last couple of months, I’ve been trying out a few mood-tracking apps on my phone. Basically, these apps help you record your mood on a day-to-day basis, track habits, and log your struggles and achievements, all through guided journaling. Some of the apps I tried are Daylio Journal, Jour, and Bearable, but there are a seemingly endless array of apps to choose from.
The problem is I don’t find these apps helpful at all. Maybe I’m just not giving them a chance to find their way into my daily routine, but I often find they bring a lot of stress for very little benefit. As a result, I just naturally stop using them for a bit until I come across another one to try. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I think part of it is I find it difficult to find the mindfulness that self-reflection demands when I’m looking at a screen. It becomes a mentally exhausting exercise rather than one that allows for peace of mind. It’s why, after several years, I switched from using the app Day One to writing in a physical journal.
In addition to being unable to achieve the required level of mindfulness, I find these apps too rigid. On paper, I can just mind-dump my feelings in whatever format feels right at the time. The apps aren’t nearly as free form, and while they are customizable to an extent (especially Bearable, which was probably my favorite of the apps I tried out), they can only give you so much freedom simply by the nature of being trackers that need consistent data points to keep track of how you’re feeling.
Finally, emotions are far more than a 1-to-5 scale, or whatever scale the app in question uses. They’re far more nuanced, and I’m not sure how keeping track of how I feel is all that helpful. I just don’t see the value of graphing out my mood trends when my primary goal of journaling is to contend with my feelings in a given moment, and to give me a starting point for what to discuss in therapy.
In my paper journal I can draw pictures, write poems, make little charts, or even just write. Whatever I feel, I can use to express and explore my feelings, and do it in a way I can truly be mindful. That’s not something the apps I’ve tried can offer.
This isn’t a denouncement of these apps. Maybe they’ll work for some people in the same way bullet journals can. If they work for you, go for it. I’ve personally found the value on offer to not be worth the cost in terms of money or attention.