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A tool for happiness

By: Landon T. Copley
for Carter County Times

As of January 2020, the World Health Organization has estimated that more than 264 million people of all ages from around the world suffer from depression. This number is staggering and does not include the obvious rise since the beginning of COVID-19 in March 2020. As a pastor, I have spoken to dozens of people in the past year who are experiencing depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. Aside from spiritual advice, I offer one tool that has personally helped me and seems to help many others. This tool is called “The Daily Mood Log.” 

“The Daily Mood Log” was created by Dr. David D. Burns in The Feeling Good Handbook. It includes four simple steps. The first step is identifying or describing the upsetting event. Who is it, or what is, that you are feeling unhappy about? Step two is identifying the negative feelings that are related to the event. A broad array of feelings can emerge: sadness, anxiousness, guilt, anger, hopelessness, etc. Use words like these and more and rate each negative feeling on a scale from 1 to 100. 

The third step is more complex. It requires you to create three columns in which you will identify automatic thoughts about the event, distortions about the event, and then rational responses. Let me explain this through a personal example. 

One evening, my daughter tripped and bumped her head on a golf cart. The knot on her forehead swelled quickly and we rushed her to urgent care. This event was upsetting to me and led to a great deal of guilt. I would rate the guilt somewhere between 90 to 100. In the first column, my immediate thought was, “This was all my fault.” What is the distortion in that statement? The distortion was that I was personalizing the blame for something that was totally out of my hands. 

Finally, I conclude with a few rational responses: (1) I cannot protect my daughter from every fall that she has, (2) while I was not in control of my daughter falling, I was in control of immediately consoling her and taking her to a medical professional, and (3) scrapes, bumps, and falls—both physically and metaphorically—build character. There a number of additional rational responses that I could have written down. 

The last step in “The Daily Mood Log” is to consider all that you have written and then write how much better you feel as an outcome. Do you feel not at all better, somewhat better, quite a bit better, or a lot better? As for me, I felt a lot better, and that huge knot has turned into a tiny scar, and that tiny scar has turned into a memory and a lesson. 

My hope is that you will use this tool to take steps toward your own happiness. If you’re depressed and full of anxiety, may this inspire you to reach out to a professional that can provide you additional tools that you may need. As always, if you find yourself in a situation in which you wish to harm yourself, please call the national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or call 911. 

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