Mood Mapping – Dr Liz Miller – About the Mood Map grid

Dr Liz Miller’s book, Mood Mapping – Plot Your Way to Emotional Health, has two main themes:

    1. The Mood Map grid
    2. The Five Keys to Mood

The Mood Map grid is a simple, visual way to understand and record the way you feel.

It can be used to explain why some of us can be convinced we are ‘bipolar’ and how many of us are coming to realise we never were that ‘bipolar’ at all.

If you want to understand your moods or think your bipolar diagnosis may not be right then the Mood Map grid is the place to start in understanding what is going on with your feelings and moods and how to live a life without being so ‘bipolar’.

Marian Moore says, “Mood can change in an instant or gradually over time. Some people are ‘morning people’, others more nocturnal. Some days are better than others. Mapping your mood helps you see when you are at your best, your worst, and even when it might be better just to stay at home!”

Mood Mapping allows us to increase our self-awareness by allowing us to know more about how we feel and gives insights into why we do the things we do. It develops our observing-self, enabling us to see moods or emotions for what they are, and not being caught up and overwhelmed by them.

Why map our moods?

Stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression have always been difficult to quantify and many people find it difficult to say which of these they are experiencing. Yet without measuring these, it can be difficult to know whether things are changing much at all.

Music may help you feel better, but how much better? Is quiet meditation more effective for you? Can this effectiveness be measured and described to others? Which foods improve your mood? Without an effective way of measuring mood it is difficult to know what is affecting your mood most.

By knowing and being able to accurately describe our moods we can become better at helping ourselves and finding the help we need when we need it.

Mood Map grid

Mood Map grid

The Mood Map grid as originally developed by Dr Liz Miller:

Mood is said to have two main components:

ENERGY – shown as up and down on the map

POSITIVITY – Essentially how you feel, shown as left and right on the map

The two axes divide the map into four quarters which describe the four basic moods;

  1. Tired (which can include good reflective moods as well as normal exhaustion and abnormal depressive states)
  2. Anxiety
  3. Action
  4. Calm

Moods affect not just how a person feels but also how they behave

For example, a small child runs towards a busy road;

–       a person who is very TIRED may think “How awful, that child may die, I wish I could do something”

–       a person who is already in a mood of high ANXIETY may panic and scream.

–       a person in the ACTION mood – runs to the child and whisks them away from danger.

–       a person who is CALM can think how to avert the danger without unnecessarily alarming people.

In this example the positive moods of ACTION and CALM seem great. The reality is that there are no good or bad moods. There is a time and a place for every type of mood. As we learn from Mood Mapping, it is the ability to change to the mood we need at any particular moment that allows us to be healthiest and work well with those around us.

A Scientific Perspective

Mood most likely comes from the deepest part of the brain, where the sympathetic (flight and fight) and parasympathetic (housekeeping) part of our nervous system join. Thus when we wake up, we immediately become aware of how we feel, and then the rest of the brain can gradually work out why we feel that way, and what we are to do next.

Mood Mapping is a simple technique that is easy to learn and easy to teach.

The first step is to plot your mood at this moment by estimating how much energy you have and putting a mark on the vertical axis.

Plotting on mood map

Plotting on mood map

Then estimate how good or positive they feel and plot that on the horizontal axis. The Mood point is where vertical and horizontal marks on the graph cross.

The Mood Point can be labelled with the time and perhaps a quick note why you feel the way you do. If you feel this is not the right mood for you at this time then maybe think what you have done in the past that has helped you get the mood you want now.

Plot another point later, to see if your choice has been effective.

 

Thanks to Marian and Liz for allowing me to adapt their article from http://www.krysan.org/index.php/holiday

This is just the start of Mood Mapping. Next article: The Five Keys to Mood

MILLER, LIZ Dr., (2009), Mood Mapping: Plot your way to emotional health and happiness, pub. London, Rodale

And our target is…

To avoid, overcome or eliminate a disorder we have to be a bit cleverer than just looking at what we are trying to avoid.

Mood Map Miller

Calm moods instead of diagnosis?

On workshops I have given students cards with symptoms of bipolar disorder written on the cards.

I have asked the students to place the symptoms on a mood map according to which of the four main moods the symptoms seem to show.

At the end of the exercise the symptoms are spread out across the depressive, anxious and active sectors. It seems that the bipolar diagnosis picks up people who are exceptional at being in either two or three of these states. The people who get the diagnosis will have been seen being both depressed and anxious, or depressed and active or anxious and active. The third of these may come as a surprise, as surely you have to be seen to be depressed to be diagnosed as manic-depressive? We can come back to that another time.

With a set of say 40 typical bipolar symptoms it is rare that the students will place any of the symptoms in the fourth quadrant of the mood map. The calm quadrant remains pretty well empty. It is this quirk that only seems to be revealed by mood mapping that gives us our target and our big break in combating bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Rather than looking at one symptom after another and thinking, “I must avoid that”, “I must stop doing that”, now we can start with a mood to aim for rather than moods to avoid.

I am interested to hear from readers who have achieved a better life by being calmer.

I am interested to hear from readers who know why calmer is a great target, yet not the ‘be all and end all’/’ultimate aim’ if you want to avoid a bipolar diagnosis.