This Japanese AI Journaling App Helped Me Understand My Feelings

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I tried Muute, Japan’s first AI logging app, for a week. Collage: VICE / Images: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

As a self-proclaimed serial newspaper collector, Muute, billed as the first AI journaling app in Japan, was all too appealing to me.

Kind of like a write prompt log, the app asks questions that encourage self-reflection. The added AI functionality analyzes users’ emotions and provides personal letters at the end of each week and each month that provide feedback on their thoughts. It also compiles daily entries to graphically represent mood, most used vocabulary, and highlights for the week. After each entry, Muute leaves you with a meditation quote or breathing exercise. Exactly what i need, I was thinking.

When I was younger, I wrote religiously in my diaries. The writing time was always 30 minutes before the lights went out and the entrees were usually tales of my delicious snacks. I was eight years old and I was very passionate about chocolate mousse and one report said, “Mum did it again. It was so sweet and rich. I want to dream about it. Apparently I couldn’t get enough of it.

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I found a Snorlax the size of a hug. Photo: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

But over the past decade my journaling has matured somewhat. Now I have notebooks dedicated to various emotional needs. My daily reflection journal, an understated beige color that sits on my windowsill, is never more than a few sentences long. “Thinking about the happiness that comes with it and what it means to tell the truest story of yourself,” I wrote one day in January. Then I have my “down” journal, where I write down all the times I feel sad, to remember the difficulties in life. I turn to them when I don’t understand all the feelings I have and hope writing them down clears my emotional fog. The most sensitive, top-secret, if-anyone-finds-this-I’m-screwed, diary is my bullshit diary. I only open it about five times a year, always on my birthday and New Years.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to add Muute to my newspaper roulette. I decided to try it for a week. Although the diaries seemed counterintuitive because I always had something to say, the prospect of getting feedback on my feelings seemed helpful. 2021 has been a year of many changes for me. I moved to Japan, leaving my nuclear family to live alone in the midst of a pandemic. I welcome change with open arms, but at times it can be overwhelming. I hoped Muute would help restore some inner balance.

“2021 has been a year of many changes for me. I moved to Japan, leaving my nuclear family to live alone in the midst of a pandemic. “

Previous research has indicated that journaling works wonders for mental health. Expressive writing was shown to reduce unwanted thoughts on negative events, as well as improve working memory. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in thousands of daily deaths, millions of people without work and extreme loneliness, has intensified the need for emotional care. In Japan, suicide rates increased by 37 percent for women between July and October, prompting government officials to consider how best to provide support.

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Shimokitazawa, a district of Tokyo, bathed in sunshine. Photo: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

The horrors of our daily lives are enough to keep anyone in bed, but one tool that could help improve their mental state is emotional AI. As a branch of artificial intelligence, it helps us understand how we feel. It uses natural language processing technology, which helps computers to understand human language. In a journaling application such as Muute, the artificial intelligence of emotions can interpret patterns in the language of users to detect emotions.

22-year-old student Tomoki Yasuda also uses Muute. He attested to the usefulness of the app for further self-realizations.

“It’s perfect for busy people; it gives us a chance to calm down and take care of ourselves. Through the app, I’m able to notice things about myself that I wouldn’t normally do, which helps me understand who I am in a more objective way, ”he told VICE.

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This is the Muute homepage. Photo: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

Downloading Muute from the App Store doesn’t have quite the same thrill of opening a newspaper for the first time, but the user-friendly interface was instantly appealing. It’s clear that Muute’s focus is tracking emotional progression over time. Like a calendar, the main page of the app shows my week at a glance. The remaining pages lead to logs, user profile, and weekly and monthly newsletters.

The very first question I answered was “How does your family improve your life?” Suspicion arose, as it was a highly fortuitous inducement; I had just fought electronically with my brother for not giving myself enough attention. But after reluctantly writing about the joys of family, I noticed that my resentment had dissipated. This is the power of selective positive thinking – we forget about the tedious arguments.

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Muute asks me “How does your family improve your life?” Photo: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

During the week, the app consistently asked me positivity-focused questions, such as “What’s a recent thing you learned?” And “Who helped you this week?” My moodflow chart showed two curves; an orange of “positive” emotion and a blue of “negative” feeling. Curves pointed and dipped, depending on my entry for that day. Monday through Tuesday the lowest point was when I was fighting with my brother. Tuesday through Wednesday was a highlight for me, and it was coincidentally the day I received positive feedback on an article I wrote.

At first, using the app seemed like a nighttime chore, so I always kept a journal. But as the week went on, I realized that I was checking Muute throughout the day. I looked at the log to see if what I had felt like a bad day was interpreted the same by the app. The weekend letter seemed slightly vague, given that the app didn’t have a lot of entries to work with. But he had an understanding tone; he said that I was not alone in my worries and encouraged me to focus on my future.

The only criticism I have of Muute is that the prompts all sounded positive. The only time I really thought about sad thoughts was when the app asked me to select three categories that concern me the most, as well as three words that best describe my feelings.

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Muute asks me to select up to three feelings. Photo: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

It is a good mental exercise to practice positive thinking, but at the same time, I strongly believe in the value of sadness. If we don’t know sorrow or pain, we have nothing to compare our happiness to. Having the space to explore sadness makes us much more balanced and empathetic; the world is not a paradise and we must not be mistaken to believe it.

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Hot sweet beans in a can, a highlight of my week. Photo: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

For those who feel like they are missing out on that extra self-understanding software, I would give AI logging apps a try. It’s a great addition to add to free writing spaces, and the way Muute is contextualized helps you see the biggest story arc of your life. The app helps you notice emotional patterns and simplifies the complexity of human emotions. You realize that small falls are only temporary and that life will always have more to offer than what you see in front of you.

“The app helps you notice emotional patterns and simplifies the complexity of human emotions. You realize that small falls are only temporary and that life will always have more to offer than what you see in front of you.

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Sashimi can brighten up anyone’s Saturday. Photo: Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery

Over the years, I have heard the relentless pounding of “Know who you are!” Or “Be yourself!” Sometimes you don’t. And it’s good. I stopped trying to debunk every fear, happiness, and pain, and instead decided to work on figuring out how fears make me click. It’s an ongoing process, but I appreciate the tools that can help me grow in the right direction.

Follow Hanako Montgomery on Twitter and Instagram.



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