If you check your social media feed every day, you probably see at least one friend who shares his or her current mood, often accompanied by a picture. Sometimes, this kind of social posts becomes a source of positivity. But in some cases, it becomes a source of concern, especially when one person seems to share nothing but negative feelings nonstop.
Dan Seider knows the struggles of such people all too well, having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the young age of 19. Instead of letting the disorder get the best of him, however, Dan decided to take control, gain a deeper understanding of what mood is, and how it impacts overall mental wellbeing.
He is the founder and CEO of Misü, a mood tracker software that uses state-of-the-art technology to help users monitor their mood. The concept for his app was born from his personal experience after receiving his diagnosis. He found himself tracking his mood swings thousands of times over an extended period, seeking clues that could guide him in making the necessary changes to improve his mental health.
Dan knew that he wasn’t the only one who needed a mood tracker. He went on to develop an app that automates the entire process, enabling users to be more aware of the changes in their mood when using particular apps or websites.
While millions of people already track their sleep time, fitness levels, and food intake, monitoring mood swings are relatively new. Dan argues, however, that it’s just as important. Gathering data about mood states have several implications that go beyond improving personal wellbeing.
Today, we feel honored to talk to Dan Seider about Misü, the first-ever mood tracker, and its wide range of applications.
1) Hello, Dan. First of all, we thank you for spending time with us today to talk about Misü, your personal experience with bipolar disorder, and the vast potential that lies in using new technology for improving mental health.
Can you describe what it was like to get diagnosed with bipolar disorder? How did it impact your life?
Getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder was one of the most difficult challenges in my life. I was in my second year of college and I started having sleeping problems because of all the racing ideas in my head and my grand plans on how to change the world.
Eventually, I stopped sleeping for 3 straight days. I didn’t realize it was a manic episode. My mom, who’s a psychiatrist, heard about this through my friends. They brought me to the hospital where I ended up staying in the psych ward for a month. That was probably one of the hardest and longest months of my life.
As soon as I came out of the hospital, I was heavily depressed. I dealt with extreme amounts of anxiety. I had to take time off of school. And then after that, I had to take a reduced course load. It was hard to see my friends graduate and I seemingly headed nowhere. I would enroll only 3 subjects per semester, and then I’d build up slowly to 4.
At this point, I took a lot of self-care and learned how to be more aware of my mental health. My goal was to get back on my feet. All of those little steps were the beginning of my investing journey. It was then that my idea for using technology to reshape the way our entire culture thinks about and handles mental health was born. And it has been such a gift to be able to invest in my own and other people’s mental health.
2) When did you realize that monitoring one’s mood is essential in maintaining overall mental wellbeing? Was this recommended by a psychiatrist or you decided to do it on your own?
Over the years, my psychiatrists and therapists had recommended tracking my mood. They gave me these flimsy pieces of paper, but I thought to myself: I am better than this.
I knew my emotions. I was full of emotional hubris. It took me two years or so of observing and monitoring these emotions, my moods, and the patterns that seemed to come out depending on the way I felt. I started learning more and more about how my behaviors impact my mood and how my mood impacts our behaviors. I realized that the more that I understood the relationship between these two, the better that I could handle my mental health.
This marked the time when I knew that the ability to track my mood could be a powerful means of dealing with mental health and all of its associated symptoms.
3) Tell us about the time you came up with the idea for Misü.
In my last year of college, I was wondering how I could give back to the mental health community? I didn’t want to give back to a system that was just going to catch people when they fall. Falling was the hardest thing I ever went through. It almost took my life, and I don’t want to be in that position again or have anyone else go through the same.
When I was thinking about mood tracking and how to raise public awareness about its many benefits, I suddenly thought about Fitbit’s. These automated fitness trackers were ubiquitous, with a quarter of American adults using them regularly. I thought that “Hey, one day we’re going to have automatic mood trackers!” It just seemed like something that would inevitably come. I didn’t know when, but I thought this could have a massive impact.
Perhaps mood tracking could get even more popular than fitness trackers because if we look at current health trends, it seems like people care more about being happier than being more fit. So I set out on a journey to invest in building practical and useful mood trackers and finding a way to eventually make it an automated system.
I had to learn how to code by myself, but with enough passion and determination, I was able to create a manual mood tracker for everyone to use. It was called Stigma and it became one of the highest-rated mood trackers on the App Store. Because of its immense success, we made it our mission to create an automatic mood tracker.
4) Can you walk us through how the software works? How accurate is the data collected?
Misu is an automatic mood tracker that works on your computer. It analyzes your emotions through your micro facial expressions as you use your computer throughout the day. It works just like a Fitbit, giving you all of these charts and graphs to monitor your performance levels during workout sessions. But of course, Misu is geared toward boosting your mental health. You could see when you felt happiest during the day and what you were doing at that specific moment.
While you’re on your computer and Misu works quietly in the background, you can learn how various apps and websites impact your mood. Users keep raving about this feature, going as far as saying that Misu blew their minds. Within minutes of downloading and installing the app, they’re able to start tracking their mood automatically.
And not only is it revolutionary, but Misu is also very accurate as well. We’ve done tests to determine that Misu is more accurate than humans at self-reported mood assessments. In one test, we tried evaluating the happiness, anxiety, and sadness levels using Misu and the results showed that the app had an 86 percent accuracy. This is comparable to the clinical tools that psychiatrists use to measure depression levels in a patient such as the PHQ-9 test which has an 88 percent accuracy.
5) What are your visions about the use of modern technology for boosting mental health? Do you think content providers should also be aware of the mood of their users?
I see a future where if you choose, you can learn about the different things that impact your mood. From how many hours of sleep you get each night and how intense your exercises are to the people you spend your time with and those extra 30 minutes you spend watching Netflix before you go to bed—all of these things have a quantifiable impact on your mood.
But it’s essential to understand that mood trackers are more than just taking measurements. At Misu, we care about improving people’s moods and giving everybody the chance to feel that they’re not alone in this fight. We want our users to feel that it’s effortless to decide on the things that they need to change for the betterment of their mental health. Whether it’s the stuff they want to consume online or the places they want to go to, Misu serves as an on-call therapist in your pocket who’s there for you whenever you want.
I think content providers and social media platforms should also watch out for this growing trend. As consumers start learning about how the products they buy, the content they consume, and the platforms they spend time on the impact their mental health, it’s inevitable for them to change their behaviors. They’d lean toward content and products that they know would have a positive effect on their mood and overall mental wellbeing.
Perhaps more interesting is the fact that over a dozen members of Congress and regulators have their eyes set on reducing the negative impact of social media on our mental health. The number one thing in their way right now is they don’t have clinically-backed data to prove the real impact of these platforms on people’s mental health. And that’s exactly what we are going to provide them.
I’d like to believe that the internet was designed and created to improve our quality of life and give us this utopian like the world. Admittedly, it’s been a rough journey, but we’re going to get there. And even if I’m resistant to the idea of regulation in many places, I think this particular case is an exception because we have these easily accessible social platforms that could cause serious harm to people’s mental health. We need that to stop so if you want to support, try out Misu today and you’ll be contributing to this movement.
6) Are there new features to be expected from Misü?
Of course, we’re always going to be releasing new features that help people record their mood, how their behaviors impact their mood and help them formulate exact steps to improve their mental health. This year we’ll be rolling out a mobile app that helps people monitor the link between their fitness and their mood. Other than fitness, the app can also track anything that’s plugged into the Apple health kit to provide a clearer picture to the user.
We’re also working on a feature that notifies you, in a very compassionate way, when your mood goes beyond or dips below your baseline and just help you at that moment. The app will provide a streamlined interface where you can learn about your mood patterns, the things you do when your happiness index is at its highest, and the apps or websites you use that harm your overall mood. You can do all of these things manually, but we want to make it easy for you to keep track of your mood and take actionable steps to help you elevate your mood and keep episodes of sadness and anxiety to a minimum.
I hope to see you at Misu. We welcome feedback as this product is going to be built by a community, and we would love you to be a part of it. You can download Misu at https://www.misu.app.
Once again, we thank Dan Seider for taking the time to sit down with us today and share his thoughts about the young but booming mental health tech market. With more people getting informed about the importance of monitoring their mood, it’s exciting to see the future developments in this niche and how it could drastically alter how we consume online content.
This content is sponsored by Jim Bevin.