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Quantified Self

- We manage what we measure

"How are you?”  It’s the way we all start many conversations, and it’s generally the way I start therapy sessions.  The responses are generally “Just fine”, or “I’m OK”.  In therapy, of course, I have to prompt for more, ask questions, and get to “How are you, really?”     Outside of therapy, we need to ask ourselves that question more frequently.  “How am I?” is a great way to self-assess, and to check progress against our goals.  

Increasingly, it’s easier to both ask ourselves that question, and to answer it.  Technology puts information about our health and wellbeing just a touch screen away. We spend much of our day logging on, syncing up, and tracking much of our activity, location, and emotions. Without even knowing it, many of us track, measure, and “quantify” ourselves everyday - experts call it the “Quantified Self movement”.

As a psychotherapist, these new tools represent an incredible opportunity.  Very often, I ask clients to log or “track” their feelings and moods.  Historically, that has meant that patients needed to take the time to write in a diary - often with limited success.  With today's technology, apps such as Moodtrack Diary, GottaFeeling, Mappiness and Moodmeter are available to accurately track factors that affect mood, feelings, and triggers. For example, in real time, clients can detect patterns, correct trajectory, and create internal peace in a stressful life style with apps such as Calm.

Empowering ourselves to take control of our lives and create change can be challenging. Many of my clients don't know what aspects of their behavior are contribute to their situation. Sometimes it is just a matter of creating balance or realizing habits that influence our behavior. With the Quantified Self tools available today, they can see how they actually behave by tracking some aspect of their daily movement, exercise, sleep patterns, moods, eating habits, environment, weather, relationships, view on life, use of time, work, finances, and health - the list is endless....

I encourage you to give this phenomenon a try.  At first, keep it simple and pick something manageable. It may take a few tries to find something that works for you. Just becoming aware of mood and what triggers it is a great start. Find out whether it's best to track your mood randomly through out the day, or just when you’re having an intense experience and want to document it.  Many people wear a Fitbit, Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, Basis watch, or other products that can track body movement and physical activity. With just a smartphone app, or with a companion wearable device, find the ideal system that works for you. 

Once you’ve begun tracking, carefully examine your results.  The Quantified Self movement is all about creating awareness.  Once we’re aware of patterns, we’re better able to address their consequences, including changing the pattern.  You might also think about talking to someone, whether it’s a friend, or a professional.  Being able to share the results with someone can be an enlightening experience. It helps to make the dark moments less dark, and the good days even better.

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