Monday, August 8, 2016

Sustainable Sanity: The Pacifica App

(Part two of our discussion of sustainable sanity!)

Do you ever have one of those days? You're in a foul mood for one reason or the other, and someone goes and does it: they post a meme to Facebook or Twitter that says something unbearably chirpy.  You know:

  • I think you're as happy as you make up your mind to be!
  • Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life!
You know the memes.

Now, before I scare all of my optimistic-meme-posting friends away, let me say that I get it.  I do. There's a lot of truth in these sayings. You can do a lot for your mood by just deciding to try to put a positive spin on things; those of us who are lucky (or hard-working, or both) enough to have found or made jobs we enjoy are certainly in a better place than those who just intrinsically hate their jobs.

But man, some days, there's nothing like being told that your bad mood is the result of poor emotional control or lousy life choices to really kick you when you're down.

While I think there's a lot you can do to think yourself into a good mood, I really believe that it's a lot easier to do so when you have factors set up in your favor. And so, I recently started using a mood-tracking app called Pacifica, available on Apple's App Store and on Google Play.  I believe one of their tag lines is "no judgement, just data," and that's what they provide.

The app is designed to use the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy to help manage anxiety and depression, but I think the app is useful for anyone, as I can attest.  On the the free version, you have a screen that allows you to set certain generalized goals in certain categories, as you can see on the screen shot; the categories are sleep, exercise, eating, water, caffeine, and (not shown) outdoors, and medication.

But the beauty of this is that you set your own goal, and there's no nagging involved. You can see above that I have set a goal of two glasses of water a day, which I hadn't met when I took this screen shot. I picked two because I drink a lot of other liquid and eat fruits and vegetables that are loaded with water, so I felt pretty good about trying for two glasses of clear water or seltzer; the app did not nag me to try for eight, which would be unrealistic for me right now.

Or take something like exercise.  I'm going for 60 minutes a day, but the app doesn't nag me to say that so much of that has to be cardio or that it all has to be yoga; I'm in charge of what I count as exercise and how.  The same is true for eating; it operates on a very general scale of poor to perfect, but you are in charge of what that means in your life.

On another screen, you can track your mood on the same sort of generalized scale, and you can record multiple mood entries per day.  Over time, you will start to amass enough data to see if your best mood days correlate with certain behaviors in your life.

So, for me, I've seen that my best moods are on days that I've gotten eight (and ideally 10 or more) hours of sleep, have been outside for an hour or more, and have exercised for an hour or more.  I don't think this is a surprise to me, but now I have some tools at my disposal. If I'm feeling my mood slip, I can think about whether I need a workout or a nap or something else that might help bring me back into balance.

Now, this is all going to be challenging in the winter, when there is no sun and very little chance to exercise outdoors, but it certainly means that I'll be taking advantage of every acceptable day to at least take a mile walk and breathe some fresh air, and I plan to reactivate the gym membership when gardening (and outdoor exercise) is over for the year and start treating myself to my favorite classes.

Your mood is as much a sustainable resource as anything else, so it makes sense to treat it as such.  I encourage my readers to try this app; you may learn something that makes you happy enough to post all sorts of memes to Facebook!

(Note: This is not a compensated review; I downloaded the free version of Pacifica and have shared my own opinion.)
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