Better Mood Tracker is an easy to use, free lifestyle tracking app for iPhone.
You are interested in your health, but do not have much time to keep track of your lifestyle in a paper journal? Better Sleep Tracker is an Experience Sampling Method app, intended to collect rich data about your lifestyle. It is part tracker and part journal that visually displays data using icons and colors. The main purpose of the app is to help you better understand your lifestyle with your life history.
In order to keep the app user-friendly, I have reduced the amount of text and sliders that you have to interact with. You will find that most day-to day operations only take a few taps. Icons speak for themselves.
Once you get a couple weeks of data, you can see how events in your life influence your mood and wellbeing. How does missing a meal affect you ? Track and find out! Does coffee in the afternoon keep you up half the night? The sleep tracking module may provide a clue!
A word of warning – Informed Consent !
[notice]First of all, the app, if used correctly would contain A LOT OF PERSONAL INFORMATION.[/notice]
This is stuff like whether you drink or not, potentially where you do it, etc. As such, I strongly recommend that you set up the PIN for the app. This would provide some protection from people snooping on your life.
- There are no logins in the app
- I do not share your data with anyone
- There is no cloud storage.
- You can erase all data in the app by uninstalling it.
Second, while the intent of this app is to help you deal with problems in your life, some of which may be medical or psychiatric in nature. Please understand that while using the app to get your life in order may offer benefits, the use of app does not replace going to the doctor or getting real medical attention.
[notice]The app is not a medical device, it may break, crash or become unresponsive.[/notice]
Do not rely on the Better Mood Tracker to work perfectly forever. If you are participating in a clinical study, or are required to keep track of your information, at the very least you can take screenshots of the app’s data with the Power + Home key.
While it is possible that you will see patterns in your own behaviors or moods as a result of using the app, please understand that you are unique, and the app does not and cannot give medical advice. Occasionally, I may post about how I use the app on this blog or on Youtube. Please understand that this is an internet blog, created by an amateur, interested in sleep and science. I have a college degree in Electrical Engineering, but do not have medical degrees or science background.
[notice]I encourage you to ask your doctor, caregiver or psychiatrist about the use of this app.[/notice]
Please understand that if you intend to use the app to keep track of your wellbeing or health while performing a lifestyle experiment (like trying a new diet, fasting, different sleep pattern, etc), you should fully understand that lifestyle experimentation, especially if you have a medical condition may result in lifestyle disruption or worsening of your existing physiological or psychological conditions.
Your use of the app indicates that you consent to data collection and agree with the above statements. If you do not, please do not use the app and find another free tracker that would suit your needs.
How to set up pin.
A pin is shown any time you close the app for longer than 10 seconds. A pin is a 4 digit combination, that is different from the pin that you use on your iPhone’s lock screen. THERE IS NO WAY TO RECOVER PIN.
- Go to …More tab within the app
- Go to “Preferences” – this is an item that you will see on the … More screen of the app.
- Find the “Use passcode” switch. Make sure it is set to “ON”
- Under that row, tap on “Create passcode”
- Enter your passcode
- Confirm the passcode.
- If passcodes match, the screen would disappear, and you have set the passcode correctly.
I store your passcode in an encrypted form, but please understand that it will only take less than 10000 tries to crack your passcode. Ensure it is different from the one you use to lock your device. There is not timeout/lockout, and no way to recover the pin.
[notice]There is no way to recover pin![/notice]
Go to More> Preferences> set up pin
How to track moods.
The simplest way to track moods is to:
- Go to the How are you? Tab
- Pick a graphic best representing your mood and tap on it.
- This places a circle on the model, representing your mood.
- The color of the circle changes based on the mood you picked.
- More relaxed moods are “bluer”, while more exited moods are redder. Ligher moods are “lighter” color, and “darker” moods are darker color.
- Tapping Save in the upper left adds the circle to your history.
It’s really simple, and for best results, you should rate your mood 3 times a day. The app can arrange reminders throughout your day to ask how you are feeling.
Pick-A-Mood scale was created by Desmet, P.M.A., Vastenburg, M.H., Van Bel, D., & Romero Herrera, N. (2012). Pick-A-Mood; development and application of a pictorial mood-reporting instrument. In: J. Brassett, J., McDonnell & M. Malpass (Eds.), Proceedings of the 8th International Design and Emotion Conference, Central Saint Martin College of Art & Design, London (UK), 11-14 September 2012.
How to add events.
An event is anything important that you want to track. For example I track moods, sleep and food. Since I normally do not drink, keeping track of occasional alcohol consumption is an event that is worth tracking for me.
The app comes with a wide variety of icons, which are open to interpretation. Think of them as hieroglyphs – they can stand for many things. A sample description is provided, and you can change it later by editing the event.
To add an event and later see it in history:
- Select “Add Event” tab
- You will see a list of icons with names
- The eight most common icons are on top
- Scroll the list and locate an icon that best represents event you would like to add
- Tap on the icon, it will light up with color
- You have added an event!
Using events like a pro with Better Mood Tracker
Your life is different from mine, and you may wish to track different events. This is why the add events tab is customizable. It is very similar to your iPhone’s screen – you can drag and rearrange icons, and the app will remember your choices:
Modifying the order
- Long press and Move icons around to rearrange
- Move the most frequently used events on top
- Rearrange icons so it’s easy for you to remember where interesting icons are
- Go to options in top left and set the “Edit” switch to delete events
- A little X button shows next to all icons, and you can delete them.
- Confirm deletion in the appearing dialog.
- WARNING: deleting an event will delete all events of that type from history
Learn about your sleep with the Sleep Tracker
I’m a dreamer and has been interested in sleep for a very long time. In order to study sleep, I built a sophisticated sleep tracker that I’m now offering to the public for free. It’s really easy to use:
Preparing your bed for sleeping with a tracker
- When you are ready to sleep, get a power cord for your iPhone
- locate a power outlet next to your bed.
- Connect a power cord to charger and bring the cable to your bed.
- Place your phone on your mattress.
- Phone must touch the mattress. Exact position (near head or feet) does not matter.
- Ensure the phone is not completely covered, by pillows or blankets or it may get hot overnight.
- You may put a phone on your blanket too.
- Note: Your iPhone 4 battery is enough to run the app for ~9 hours, but in the morning your battery will be drained!
Prepare the phone
- Go to you Preferences app on your phone (silver gear icon on your home screen)
- On top, use the “Airplane mode” switch to “ON” put your phone in airplane mode (this is a precaution)
- Find the “Brightness” and move the slider to the minimum (to extend you device’s life)
Sleeping with the Sleep Tracker
- Start the app
- Go to …More tab > Sleep Tracker (You may need to tap … button twice to show full list of additional tools in the app)
- Tap the “Go to sleep” button.
- The app is now tracking sleep.
- Use the “Lights off” button in top left to dim the screen – it shows a black screen that will be dimly illuminated at night.
- DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR PHONE.
- The app CANNOT track sleep with the screen off. It turns off internal sensors off.
- (If the app is successful, Apple may allow me to run it with the screen off)
- Once you wake up, Move the “Slide to wakeup” slider to the right to tell the app that you woke up.
- Waking up turns off sleep tracking.
Tracking events overnight.
You can add events overnight, just as during the day, and events from the “Sleep” category are conveniently put above the “Wake up” button. They are large, so they are easy to tap at night. Tapping an event produces a “click” to confirm that the event was added.
To add an event at night:
- Your screen is dimly glowing.
- Tap the screen to remove the screensaver
- Tap on one of the icons above the wake up button
- Tap the “screen off” button to dim the screen again.
Personally, I tracked the following events over the past year:
- Every time I wake up form a dream, I add a “Dream” marker
- Every time I feel like I spent over 30 minutes in insomnia, I reach out and mark this as “Insomnia” event.
- Note that in order to preserve the continuity of sleep, do not mark dreams unless you really want to.
Understanding your sleep with automatic events!
The coolest feature of the Better Sleep Tracker is that it automatically adds markers to your history.
- The “Bedtime” icon is placed on your history, marking the exact time you went to sleep on that day.
- The Risetime icon indicates the exact time when you used the “Slide to wakeup” slider.
- The “Sleep Onset” marker is placed by the app once it detects that you entered light sleep stage. You may feel awake, but your brain is switching to sleep mode. The first sleep onset marker of the night is important.
- Additional “Sleep Onset” markers are added automatically after you mark dreams or insomnias from the Sleep Tracker Tab. These markers show how long it took you to fall asleep after you added an event in the middle of the night.
Using in-App Reminders
Tracking mood and activity is tedious if you have to remember to do it all the time. This is why the app can schedule smart reminders every time you wake up.
Here’s how they work:
- The app can play 3+ reminders each day.
- The app spaces the reminders so they cover different parts of each day.
- The app schedules reminders
- After 20 days or so, you would have 4 reminders played at each waking hour – this means you will potentially have 4 events for each hour of the day, creating a comprehensive lifestyle history.
To schedule events:
- Go to the …More tab
- Find the Preferences item
- Scroll down to the Reminders section.
- Tap “Schedule reminders”.
- An audio is played during the day, and the reminder shows up in your notification center. Tap on it to go to the app and log your mood.
Using My Day module
My day is a better kind of a clock , and may be especially useful to those who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where depressions come and go with the
seasons. There has been research that connected SAD with sunlight exposure, and My Day clock shows you how much light/darkness is in the day you just experienced. Are you living under artificial darkness, or is sunlight flooding through your windows?
The way sunlight is registered is through special cells in your eyes that are connected to a part of your brain called Suprachiasmic Nucleus (SCN). This part of your brain makes decisions about wake/sleep transition. The duration of your light exposure on any given day is known as photoperiod. Variations in photoperiod may confuse the brain about what time/season it is.
I hope that information about day duration and events would help some people. Here’s how to use the clock:
- The Orange Arrow indicates time. It rotates in a circle around the middle
- The triangular rainbow arrows indicate sunrise and sunset. The one on the left is sunrise, and on the right is sunset.
- Above the sunrise/sunset arrows is daylight.
- Below sunrise/sunset arrows is darkness (or artificial light)
- As the Orange Arrow moves above sunrise, it indicates position of the sun in the sky.
- You can use this clock to know how many hours of sunlight are left in the day.
Events and sunlight.
The clock plots events from the past 24 hours on the outer edges of the clock. This may be useful, as few people have ever seen their day plotted this way. Use the clock to estimate:
- How much time you sleep
- How much time you work
- How little/much free time you have
- How you spend your time
- How you feel about your time
- What actions are you doing in the morning?
- What actions are you doing in the evening?
Events that repeat daily on a 24 hour scale are called Circadian (around the day). For example circadian rhythm is how your body operates. Using my day, you can gain insights about how your own personal circadian rhythm is aligned. For example, your peak awareness and activity may fall on different hours of the day. Using the My Day clock, you can [get insights int your own circadian rhythm – link].