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Tracking Mental Processes (part 3)


This is part 3 of the tutorial on the use of Better Mood Tracker for tracking lifestyle events.

Motivation and procrastination

Moods and sleep

I like to sleep. I really do. But sometimes I have to pay a heavy price for it. On a number of occasions I noticed that if I “sleep in” – get out of bed later than the usual, I spend most of the day demotivated. I do not do much, lose hours of time to menial tasks, and do not accomplish anything. Mind you, I would still say that I’m Ok, if asked how I feel. But repeated observation has revealed that either oversleeping, or unusually intense dreaming at night may decrease, or outright ruin my mood the next day.

I have not tracked this with better mood tracker yet, but it is possible to set up an experiment where you would record unusually intense dreams or oversleeping:

  • Pick a marker to represent your query. For example, I pick the “Bright” marker to represent unusually intense dream.
  • Upon awakening, use the Better Mood Tracker to add the “Bright” marker to history.
  • This kind of tracking may take a month or so.
  • Look at your history with the “thougths” filter and notice if abnormal moods occur on the same day, or the day following intense dreaming.

In science, a negative result is also a result. So if dreaming does not affect your moods, you may feel happy about being able to remember your dreams! But if dreaming does affect your moods, then maybe it’s a sign that something is happening, and is worth investigating in more detail.

Creativity and Ideation

Dreaming and Dreamsigns

I’ve been interested in dreaming for the past 11 years. I remember, and can recall at will hundreds of dreams, as well as wake up from dreams, control dreams through lucid dreaming. This entire website is dedicated to my efforts of bringing the fun and opportunities of lucid dreaming to the general public.

Remembering dreams requires keeping a dream journal. Every night, I would wake up from dreams and write down fragments of what I remembered. Up to date, I have 9 volumes of dream journals, all in chicken scratch writing, difficult to analyze or track.

With the Better Mood Tracker, you can add dream markers and keep a log of your dreams on your device. Times and days of dreams are recorded, and if you write down the dream # in your dream journal, you will be able to analyze your dreams on a whole new level. I found that events from my life over the preceding 4 days influence my dreams, and with the Better Mood Tracker, I would be able to examine times and content of dreams against their times. This has already helped me identify recurring patterns and dreamsigns.

Creativity and Innovation

A couple years ago I kept a log of all the innovations in design, technology, advertising, and other ways in which people did things differently. I took pictures of what I saw and counted over 45 objects that captured my interest. Not only did I look at the world differently for that time period, by there was more motivation to go outside. Looking for stuff became a game, and I prided myself on the number of truly new an innovative things I counted each day. The objects were completely different:

  • There were new curved flags that you can see outside Fast Food Chains nowadays, but that was the first time I saw a flag that is wind resistant.
  • There were office chairs, 4 of which could be stacked in place of one
  • There were innovative aftermarket accessories that I saw on cars.
  • Journeys to Walmart were especially exciting, and I saw many clever things in the automotive and outdoor sections, and some childrens toys were ingenious.

Looking for creativity and innovation in the world has sparked my own creativity, putting me in one of the most productive periods of my life. I started to write about things I saw, and presently people say that I’m a reasonably good writer.

With the IdeasImagination and Invention markers, you can keep track of things that catch your interest and try the experiment like the one above.

Left Brain /Right Brain

You may know that your brain is made of two halves, and in this video: Powerful Stroke of Insight the speaker, through the vocal inflection, demeanor and the use of educational tools describes the difference between how the left and right brain process information and view the world.

I fully understand what the speaker in that video talks about, because I have experienced looking at the world through different lenses (but no stroke). I also use difference in vocal tonality and demeanor to express this state, because it cannot be expressed rationally.

Most of my regular waking hours are spent in left half of my brain. I’m a computer programmer. I use logic. I write tens of thousands of lines of code. I read scientific articles. This information is processed sequentially, one word after another.

But there are times, when I get insights, get to see glimpses of the entire pattern, and can draw conclusions from unrelated facts. And I would like to spend more time thinking like that. For example, I read scientific articles, but do so at irregular intervals, thinking about something completely unrelated in the meanwhile. And then a stroke of insight hits me, and I ask questions like this one  if omnivores vary their food preference based on dietary needs.  The answer hits nail straight on the head – yes, at least rats and birds do vary their diet based on nutrient needs. And there are sensors in the brain that detect indispensable amino acid imbalances. Animals also start to “like” salt if sodium-deprived. Notice how the question “anticipated” the answer, and if there was no answer, would’ve made a reasonable scientific inquiry.

To track such “stepping outside” the comfort zone thinking, I’ve added these icons to the app

  • Ideas, an icon that may be useful any time you think about something interesting or new
  • Left Brain, when you approach a problem rationally, logically, and plan
  • Right Brain, when your brain wanders, you notice patterns or appreciate art, music, poetry or people.

While not precisely “Left/Right” brain, such tracking may help you become more sensitive to alternative ways of solving problems, for example there’s evidence that suspending rational thought may help find solutions where persistence in rational thought would’ve stumbled.


Brain Power!

There are work-related tasks that require enormous amounts of brain power. I’m talking about creating new products or services, executing marketing campaigns, writing a sales copy that converts potential customer to buyers. Engineering and science would also fall in this category.

Things in these areas just do not happen at a consistent pace, and require some sort of inspiration or an “idea” to take hold, and get the person excited to start working on the challenge at hand. That’s right, it is no longer a problem, but is a challenge or an opportunity. The words stop being drab corporate speak, and are instead taking on their full meaning.

Challenging work is rewarding, if you have the skill to do it – check out the concept of Flow, and this presentation on Flow by the author . Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the creator of the concept has studied people for many years, and found that if nothing else, people live to experience this state of mind, where the challenge is matched by the skill.

There are 4 markers within the app that are related to the concept:

  • Inspiration – when the idea takes hold of you
  • Invention – when the idea takes form
  • Planning – when the idea is executed
  • Selling – when the idea is being presented to the world.

For example, the Better Mood Tracker is an app that went through this entire process, it started with an idea, which was converted into a technical product, was planned on how to execute, and will be marketed after the app’s release. Everything from the name to the icon design and the feature set has been inspired. Building this app has marked the best moments I had in the past year.

Yet the enormous amount of brain power required to pull off such project cannot be sustained for long. I think that by looking at your life from a more knowledgeable point of view, you may be able to find times, when your body and mind have enough energy reserves to accomplish a project, to push your career to the next level, to start something new or do something that you always wanted to do.  In doing so, you may experience the state of Flow, which is very nice. Try tracking when you are in this state of Flow.