Self monitoring

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Self-monitoring is usually taken as the practice of observing own behavior, thoughts, and emotions. It can be a helpful tool for gaining awareness and insight into one’s own patterns and habits. Sometimes, it is defined as a personality trait marked by the ability to regulate behavior in social situations.

What Is Self-monitoring?

Self-monitoring, in psychology, refers to a form of self-observation in which a person willingly lets himself/herself be guided by social cues. It is tied to the purpose of self-reflection and gaining self-awareness 1, identifying problematic behaviors and thought patterns, and making positive changes.

It involves systematically collecting and analyzing data 2 about oneself to identify behaviors or thoughts that may be problematic or interfering with one’s goals and to track progress over time.

The term “self-monitoring” was introduced in the 1970s by psychologist Mark Snyder 3. While Snyder’s original concept focused on social behavior and group self-presentation 4, the term has since been applied more broadly to include self-monitoring of physical and mental health behaviors as well as personal development and goal-setting.

Self monitoring Examples

Read More About Goals Here

Signs Of Self-monitoring

Research 5 attributes the common signs of self-monitoring to the following:

  • Saying things that are not true to garner attention or approval from others.
  • Putting on a show to make oneself appear entertaining to others.
  • Imitating the behaviors of others.
  • Having self-doubts and looking to other people for guidance in certain social situations
  • Asking others for advice on what to say, wear, think, or do
  • Continuously changing opinions to please others
  • Changing one’s behavior, depending on the environment
  • Switching the tone of one’s voice to suit social situations
  • Unconsciously mimicking other people’s body language
  • Not trusting one’s own instinct when wanting to make a decision or comment

Read More About Growth Mindset Here

Types Of Self-monitoring

The two types 6 of self-monitoring include:

1. Acquisitive self-monitoring

This type of self-monitoring is directed at acquiring attention and approval from others in a social situation. It often involves assessing the reactions of others and mimicking them or altering one’s behavior in a way so as to fit in or grab attention, status, or power.

2. Protective self-monitoring

This type of self-monitoring is intended to protect oneself from the disapproval of others, allowing the individual to fit in. Protective self-monitoring often involves mimicking others and changing one’s behavior and belief systems to suit social situations as well as prevent embarrassment.

Self-monitoring vs Self-talk

  • Self-monitoring is a type of self-observation and restraint in which a person compels himself/herself to be guided by situational cues and social appropriateness. Whereas, self-talk 7 is an internal voice or dialogue influenced by inbuilt beliefs, unconscious biases, as well as social situations.
  • Self-monitoring is sometimes a maladaptive behavior in uncomfortable situations, but self-talk is often recommended as a positive self-soothing tool to navigate stressful situations.

Self-monitoring vs Self-awareness

Self-monitoring refers to a form of self-observation and restraint in which a person compels himself/herself to be guided by situational cues and social appropriateness. Self-awareness 8, on the other hand, involves a person’s ability to perceive and understand the characteristics that make him/her a unique individual. These include gaining insights into his/her personality, actions, beliefs, emotions, and thoughts.

Mental Health Impact Of Self-monitoring

The benefits of self-monitoring lie in fostering social cohesion. For people with introverted personalities, social anxiety, or adjustment issues, positive and well-regulated self-monitoring strategies provide opportunities to navigate social situations comfortably and communicate effectively.

They tend to be more sensitive to social cues and are more likely to be flexible in their self-presentation to fit different social situations. It also helps them to open up and form loving bonds with people of similar personalities or mindsets.

Maladaptive or negative self-monitoring, on the other hand, can lead to chronic self-doubt and self-esteem issues. People with such tendencies 9 develop debilitating self-consciousness, anxiety, and tendencies to be extremely self-observant.

They tend to be very tense in social situations, which makes it difficult for them to communicate openly and interact freely with others. In some cases, such self-monitoring may enhance existing symptoms of depression, social anxiety, and sedentary and avoidant behavior.

Read More About Social Anxiety Here

Self-monitoring tools for mental health

In mental health, self-monitoring may involve tracking mood, anxiety, or symptoms of a mental health condition. There are many self-monitoring tools 10 related to this, ranging from traditional paper and pencil methods to modern digital apps and wearables. These include:

  • Mood-tracking apps that track moods and identify behavioral triggers over time
  • Thought recording worksheets used in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that identify negative patterns of thinking
  • Sleep tracking devices to track sleep patterns and recommend sleep hygiene tips
  • Stress-tracking apps that offer guided meditations, breathing exercises, and stress-management tools
  • Symptom tracking apps that provide for the tracking of symptoms related to mental health conditions
  • Journaling apps, ranging from traditional journaling to gratitude tracking, that help to improve mood and promote overall mental well-being.

Self-monitoring In Clinical Practice

Research reveals that positive self-monitoring and behavior changes (especially in therapeutic contexts) are closely related. It is an important technique used in clinical practice 11 to help individuals keep track of their own behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. It can be used to monitor progress and help identify areas of concern or improvement.

Self-monitoring can be used in a variety of clinical contexts, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions such as personality disorders, eating disorders etc. It is also used in the management of physical health conditions 12 such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and chronic pain.

Self-monitoring also helps individuals identify triggers for problematic behaviors or symptoms, track progress over time, and provide a sense of control and empowerment. It can also help clinicians tailor treatment approaches accordingly and provide objective data for assessing treatment efficacy.

Read More About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Here

How To Self-monitor

Consider the following tips to self-monitor healthily:

  • Set clear goals and identify the behaviors that you want to monitor and change over time.
  • Use a reliable method of tracking 13 and stick to it. Consider using a paper diary, an app, or a wearable device.
  • Be consistent and track your behaviors or symptoms regularly.
  • Be honest, truthful, and objective when tracking your behaviors, even if it means admitting to setbacks or slip-ups.
  • Focus on progress, not perfection. Celebrate your successes and acknowledge your progress, even if it’s small. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks and try harder to adjust your approach.
  • Don’t become too obsessive in tracking your behaviors to point that it disrupts your daily life or causes undue stress.
  • Share your results with a healthcare professional and discuss areas for improvement.
  • Adjust your approach, if and when needed. If you’re not seeing the progress you’d like, adjust your approach or seek guidance from a healthcare professional.
  • Respect your privacy and protect your tracking data from possible exploitation.


Self-monitoring for health and wellness is a helpful tool for individuals seeking to improve their self-awareness or make positive changes in their lives. However, it’s important to note that self-monitoring is not a substitute for professional medical or mental health care, and individuals should seek guidance from a healthcare professional if they have serious concerns about their mental and physical health condition.

At A Glance

  1. Self-monitoring involves observing and tracking one’s own behavior, thoughts, and emotions to gain self-awareness and make positive changes.
  2. It can be used in various contexts, such as mental health, physical health, and personal development.
  3. It can be done using different methods, such as writing in a journal, using specialized apps, etc.
  4. Common self-monitoring examples include tracking food intake, physical activity, sleep patterns, symptoms of a mental health condition, and so forth.
  5. While self-monitoring can be a helpful tool for making positive changes, it is not a great substitute for professional help to correct negative behavioral patterns.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the importance of self-monitoring skills?

Self-monitoring is an important strategy that teaches us to self-assess our behavior and record the results.

2. What is the first step in self-monitoring?

The first step to self-monitoring is identifying the target behavior and developing an adequate behavior plan.

3. What is a self-monitoring checklist?

A self-monitoring checklist is a list of behaviors, goals, or strategies aimed to help a person take control of his/her own behavior and monitor changes.

4. What is the problem with self-monitoring?

Self-monitoring sometimes leads to the tendency of hypervigilance. This can make it difficult for people to relax or interact positively with others, thereby contributing to greater stress or anxiety for the person exercising self-monitoring.

5. Is self-monitoring effective?

Self-monitoring can lead to self-awareness about maladaptive behaviors and help a person self-regulate his/her behavior, thereby avoiding and coping with situations that often lead to failure.

👇 References:
  1. Vago, D. R., & Silbersweig, D. A. (2012). Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 6, 296. []
  2. Epstein, R. M., Siegel, D. J., & Silberman, J. (2008). Self-monitoring in clinical practice: a challenge for medical educators. The Journal of continuing education in the health professions, 28(1), 5–13. []
  3. Snyder, M., & Gangestad, S. (1986). On the nature of self-monitoring: matters of assessment, matters of validity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 51(1), 125–139. []
  4. Klein, O., Snyder, M., & Livingston, R. W. (2004). Prejudice on the stage: self-monitoring and the public expression of group attitudes. The British journal of social psychology, 43(Pt 2), 299–314. []
  5. Burke, L. E., Swigart, V., Warziski Turk, M., Derro, N., & Ewing, L. J. (2009). Experiences of self-monitoring: successes and struggles during treatment for weight loss. Qualitative health research, 19(6), 815–828. []
  6. Wilde, M. H., & Garvin, S. (2007). A concept analysis of self-monitoring. Journal of advanced nursing, 57(3), 339–350. []
  7. Geurts B. (2018). Making Sense of Self Talk. Review of philosophy and psychology, 9(2), 271–285. []
  8. Dishon, N., Oldmeadow, J. A., Critchley, C., & Kaufman, J. (2017). The Effect of Trait Self-Awareness, Self-Reflection, and Perceptions of Choice Meaningfulness on Indicators of Social Identity within a Decision-Making Context. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 2034. []
  9. Beiwinkel, T., Hey, S., Bock, O., & Rössler, W. (2017). Supportive Mental Health Self-Monitoring among Smartphone Users with Psychological Distress: Protocol for a Fully Mobile Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in public health, 5, 249. []
  10. Compernolle, S., DeSmet, A., Poppe, L., Crombez, G., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Cardon, G., van der Ploeg, H. P., & Van Dyck, D. (2019). Effectiveness of interventions using self-monitoring to reduce sedentary behavior in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 16(1), 63. []
  11. Compernolle, S., DeSmet, A., Poppe, L., Crombez, G., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Cardon, G., van der Ploeg, H. P., & Van Dyck, D. (2019). Effectiveness of interventions using self-monitoring to reduce sedentary behavior in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 16(1), 63. []
  12. Patel, M. L., Hopkins, C. M., Brooks, T. L., & Bennett, G. G. (2019). Comparing Self-Monitoring Strategies for Weight Loss in a Smartphone App: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 7(2), e12209. []
  13. Page, E. J., Massey, A. S., Prado-Romero, P. N., & Albadawi, S. (2020). The Use of Self-Monitoring and Technology to Increase Physical Activity: A Review of the Literature. Perspectives on behavior science, 43(3), 501–514. []
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