Is Apple’s foray into mood tracking the next big thing in health technology?
By Mark Travers Ph.D.
- Apple’s new “State of Mind” feature aims to help us understand our emotions.
- The iPhone’s Journaling app records life events for you, becoming a sort of automatic emotion journal.
- The Health app is now equipped with mental health assessments, including the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 questionnaires.
Apple’s new “State of Mind” feature in the Health app is more than a tech update; it’s Apple’s foray into helping us understand our emotions. Beyond tracking physical activity with the Apple Watch, the company is now capturing our moods. This, combined with insights from a new Journal app (which Apple says will be woven into our life’s events and multimedia tapestry), aims to give a full picture of our daily experiences, both in body and mind.
Here’s how Apple envisions this feature will play out in real life.
Imagine a vacation in an unfamiliar city. At the start of your day, the Health app prompts you to record your mood. You describe it as “Very Pleasant” and indicate to the app that you’re on vacation. You then delve deeper, picking from a palette of emotions—maybe you feel grateful, serene, or exhilarated. As you meander through the city, guided by GPS and capturing moments, the Journal app curates a narrative of your day. Upon stumbling into a hectic tourist hotspot, a spike in your anxiety nudges your heart rate up. Sensing the shift, the Health app checks in on your mood once more. This dance of interactions continues, making your vacation a tapestry of emotional hues. So, when you’re back, and a friend (or a psychologist) inquires about your trip, you can share a rich emotional canvas, offering more than just, “It was great.”
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Here are two of the most promising benefits of such a future, based on the landscape of mental health today.
1. It Can Help in Early Intervention and Continuous Monitoring of Mental Health
Mental health is an increasingly important issue that permeates society. According to a 2021 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, with anxiety and depression being the most prevalent. The democratization of mental health through features like State of Mind could be a game-changer.
By providing universal access to industry-standard screening tools such as the PHQ-9 and GAD-7, and presenting the results in an easily digestible format, individuals are empowered to reach out to mental health professionals for tailored guidance on their concerns.
Being mindful of our emotions can help us process difficult life situations better. According to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety, feeling grateful for positive experiences is a potent deterrent to depressive symptoms. A smart journaling app that automatically records life events for you, in rich detail, can help you store beautiful memories. Features like State of Mind can help you remember how you felt about these experiences. In essence, they can become your automatic emotion journal. Journaling is an often-recommended method to work through your anxieties and depressive symptoms. So this seems like a step in the right direction.
It’s important to remember, however, that while this tool can be helpful, it doesn’t replace mental health professionals. The self-interpretation of these results should be done with caution, and any concerns should be discussed with a qualified healthcare provider.
2. It Can Help Enhance Self-Awareness and Personal Growth
As users regularly document their emotional states and associated triggers, they cultivate a deeper understanding of their own emotional patterns and responses. Recognizing recurring stressors or moments of joy enables users to either avoid situations that negatively impact their well-being or lean into experiences that bring positivity.
Moreover, this heightened self-awareness can act as a catalyst for personal growth. By confronting and understanding their emotions, users can take actionable steps toward better mental resilience, emotional intelligence, and overall well-being. Using tools that foster self-awareness supports a growth mindset, empowering individuals to proactively address and evolve their emotional health and response to stress, as a 2022 study published in Frontiers in Psychology showed.
As technology intertwines further with our lives, Apple’s new mental health focus heralds a new human-tech interaction era. Yet, to some, notifications about mental check-ins might feel intrusive. Public reaction remains uncertain in this uncharted domain. Still, with tech’s undeniable presence in our lives, embracing such innovations may pave the way for a more harmonious man-machine relationship.