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Understand Behind-the-Scenes of Building Orah’s Mood Check 

Kavyapriya Sethu

June 29, 2022

Building blocks of Orah's Mood Check

Have you come across videos tagged as 'oddly satisfying?' I am talking about videos of soaps being cut, marble cakes being glazed, pavements being cleaned by pressure washers, and more. There is something inexplicably pleasing about watching these videos. They were, as the tag suggests, oddly satisfying. 

Now, let me ask you a question. Is satisfaction a feeling? Is it the same thing as being happy? It takes us a while to think of an answer, doesn't it? Often, we find it difficult to know what we are feeling or struggle to find the words to describe our feelings. And it's not just us who are battling with this challenge. Scientists are trying to find a clear way of identifying, defining, and distinguishing emotions. 

Read our blog: Moods, emotions and the benefits of tracking them at schools 

Discrete Theory of Emotions

Psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic emotions—happiness/enjoyment, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, and contempt. He stated that we across different cultures universally experience these emotions. And each emotion acts as a discrete category rather than an individual emotional state. 

(If you want to learn more about emotions, here is the Atlas of Emotions, an interactive tool designed by the Dalai Lama and Ekman group. It represents what researchers have learned from the psychological study of emotion. It sheds light on how they are triggered, what they feel like, and how we respond.)

After Ekman, many researchers have come up with different theories to categorize and explain the emotions that we feel. However, is there a more tractable way to describe emotional states than using just words? It has been found that a continuous rather than a discrete approach to emotion representation is more suitable. Scientists have tried to conceptualize human emotions by defining dimensional models of emotions that associate emotions with points in a multidimensional space. Several dimensional models of emotion have been developed, though there are a few that are popularly accepted by most. One of the two-dimensional models that are most prominent is the circumplex model

The Circumplex Model of Affect

Participants rated how similar emotions are to each other. Then, using statistical analyses, James Russell (1980) arranged participants' ratings around a circle based on similarity (or those emotions that are positively correlated). His analysis revealed two independent, bipolar dimensions—valence and activation. And these can be used to describe any emotion. 

Now, what do these dimensions mean? Valence describes the extent to which an emotion is positive or negative. On the other hand, the activation dimension refers to the degree of intensity (loudness, energy) and summarizes one's physiological state. 

Here is a look at the circumplex model. 

The model consists of four quadrants. The first quadrant shows high activation with positive valence, which is associated with happy emotions. The second quadrant depicts high activation with a negative valence—usually a characteristic of feelings of anger. The third quadrant shows low activation with negative valence and represents sad emotions. And the fourth quadrant with low activation with positive valence is associated with calm emotions. 

Now, take a minute. With this idea in mind, can you place the following emotion words in the correct quadrant? 

Bored, Annoyed, Excited, Content, Depressed

Here is a detailed version of Russell’s (1980) Circumplex Model. Were you able to rightly place the emotions in the right quadrant? 

Why Mood Tracking is Important

Many mood tracker apps based on emotion classification models are used to help individuals track one’s moods at a regular interval. But why is tracking your mood important? Before we answer that, let's look at how feelings are created within us. In understanding more about how our brains work, we can understand why building awareness about our feelings can help us lead healthier lives. 

The brain takes information from our body. When our heart rate increases because we are startled by something, the brain uses that to make sense of what is going on. It takes information from each of your senses, your actions, and your thoughts. 

It pieces all these clues together with memories of when you have felt similar in the past and makes a suggestion, the best guess about what is happening and what you do about it. That guess can sometimes be felt as an emotion or a mood.(Feldman Barrett, 2017). 

When you experience a low mood, you are neither unable to think nor act properly. Low moods compound and they can distort our perception of reality. 

So how can you get out of this vicious cycle? 

Dr. Julie Smith, a clinical psychologist, suggests, "We cannot directly choose our emotions and switch them on but we can use the things we can control to change how we feel."

Mood tracking can help us build awareness about how we are doing and equip us to develop coping techniques to help deal with negative moods. Sometimes just knowing what's going on is enough. Sometimes you will identify some things that are easy to address (like, for example, shortness of breath with breathing exercises). 

Mood tracking also helps you understand external and internal triggers and patterns that cause mood changes or mood swings. It can help you make small changes that will greatly impact your mood and happiness. For example, you might notice that the amount of sleep you had influences how you feel the next day. You can make small changes to your routine and try to get more sleep. 

By improving your emotional intelligence, you are taking a step towards leading a healthy and happy life. You can communicate clearly with others and nurture healthy relationships. 

When your feelings get intense or overwhelming, you can decide to ​​seek the help of a therapist, doctor, or counselor. Tracking your mood will be an invaluable resource to share with them. 

Nurture's Mood Check

Our Mood Check, based on the Circumplex Model, defines emotions as having two dimensions, pleasantness and energy. Mood Check encourages students to answer the following questions.  

1) On a scale, how pleasant do they feel, and how much energy is running through their body? 

Students are asked to move the slider to answer the question. We recommend that you help them understand what we mean by pleasantness vs. energy so they can candidly answer the question. 

2) What words best describe how they're feeling? 

When we discussed the circumplex model, we spoke about the four quadrants and what they represent. Several emotions can be grouped under the same quadrant. However, they are placed at different coordinates on the y axis based on the energy component. For example, excitement and happiness, while both belong to the same quadrant, 'excited' is placed higher on the y-axis as it is more intense when felt. Students are nudged to choose an emotion that best describes what they are feeling. By doing this regularly, students can expand their emotional vocabulary. 

The more new words you can build up to differentiate between feelings, the more options your brain has for making sense of various sensations and emotions. When you have a more accurate word for a feeling, this helps to regulate your emotions and in turn means less stress for your body and mind overall. This is a crucial tool if you want to be more flexible and effective in how you respond to challenges that you face (Feldman Barrett, 2017).

Note: Staff can add/edit emotions that they would like the student to see and choose from. 

3) What made them feel that way? 

Students are encouraged to think about what might have happened to make them feel pleasant or unpleasant, energetic or low in energy.

Note: Staff can add/edit influences that they would like the student to see and choose from. 

Analyzing Mood Check Results

Once responses are gathered, you get to see a summary of how your student community is doing

  1. The mood map shows how each of your students is feeling. 
  2. The climate cloud depicts words of feelings that your students are experiencing. 
  3. The trend chart shows how energy and happiness/pleasantness in your students have changed over a period. 
  4. Staff can see the total number of mood check records that have been recorded and the number of students who are active vs. inactive. 
  5. The 'Influences on All Mood Status' shows the top things that influenced students' moods. 
  6. When students share that they are not feeling well, i.e., they select concerning negative emotions, then they are flagged under records of concern.  

Why Implement Mood Check at Your School Today

With Nurture’s Mood Check, you would need just a minute a day to understand how your students are feeling. Mood check enables you to implement a safe space for regular check-ins with students and allows for fewer students to fall through the cracks when it comes to mental health. The insights gathered will help you hold meaningful conversations with students about how they are feeling, teach them that it’s ok to feel a certain way, and help them understand what activities or areas could be improved to help them be in a positive mood. 

By adopting mood checks as part of the curriculum, schools can equip students to take control of their mental health by encouraging them to track how they are feeling over time, understand positive and negative influences on their mood and make informed lifestyle choices. In the long run, improve the emotional intelligence of your students. 

Interested in exploring Nurture for your school? Sign up for a free trial today! 

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Kavyapriya Sethu

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