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A Few Notes on The Quantified Self

Technology is a double-edged sword. Lifelogging can help you use it to your advantage.

Technology is a double-edged sword. Lifelogging can help you use it to your advantage.

A friend recently took to calling me the “bionic woman,” but it has nothing to do with using superhuman powers in service of my government. 

On the back of my arm, you’ll spot a blood glucose monitor, which I use to keep an eye on blood sugar levels. On my pointer finger, there’s an Oura Ring, which tracks sleep quality and heart rate variability. On my wrist, you’ll spot a smart watch, which counts daily steps, heart rate, and daily exercise. My menstrual cycle is logged in an app, as well as a host of other factors related to my hormones. I often enter my food intake and macronutrients on my phone, and I take note of my daily mood and the quality of each day in a goals-oriented planner. Excel is a good friend; once in a while, I’ll make an account of every minute spent over a week to figure out where I’m leaking time. I’ve also journaled since the age of 8 or so, taking note of most important conversations and events. In my religious life, I try and take at least a once-weekly inventory of where I’m missing the mark. Oh, and progress on my goals has been color-coded since 2009 (red, yellow, green). Perhaps this is one reason I became a coach!

Ok, maybe you wouldn’t call me a bionic woman. Maybe you’d call me obsessive, fanatical, neurotic, an extreme naval gazer. Whatever label one may slap onto this behavior, I am part of a growing community that subscribes to the practice of lifelogging, otherwise known as The “Quantified Self.”

The Oura ring provides sleep data, heart rate variability, and tracks daily activity levels.

The Oura ring provides sleep data, heart rate variability, and tracks daily activity levels.

This movement focuses on self-experimentation and self-knowledge using numbers, with the goal of enhancing happiness, performance, and health through the collection and analysis of data. By taking ownership of one’s health information, one can also handle medical challenges in a more empowered and informed manner, and perhaps avoid energy derailments, unnecessary prescriptions and medical misdiagnoses. As a coach and an avid practitioner of lifelogging, I know that this practice can be a lifesaver.

As an example, a few years ago a doctor in Singapore diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. “Take six months off and rest,” he advised. “There’s nothing else you can really do about it.” He said he saw this a lot in women “like me,” and that he had just diagnosed a lawyer and personal trainer with it as well. Admitting I was devastated by this news is an understatement. Based on my lifelogging data and research as well as a dose of intuition, however, I was able to conclude that his diagnosis was likely incorrect —there was something else going on. Taking the information I’d gathered to other specialists eventually led to the right diagnosis— a condition that has since been easily managed by keeping an eye on glucose levels and making a radical dietary shift.

In my coaching practice, these kinds of stories come up all the time. I also get to witness the many successes that arise from self-tracking. For people who have highly sensitive bodies or who lean toward being “feelers” more than “thinkers”, lifelogging can be particularly grounding, providing a kind of reality check. We’re in an age where industries that are supposed to support our well-being have become increasingly predatory. Our well being is thus hinged on taking more responsibility over our health by “knowing thyself” and doing our own research. Lifelogging has many benefits, and will only take about ten to fifteen minutes out of your day. We have little control over the things that may happen to us in life. Why not optimize the small sliver that we do have?

Action: Try out one form of lifelogging for a week. 

Power Question: How might lifelogging help you toward your goals?

As always, thanks for reading! Is Lifelogging a topic of interest to you? Let me know in the comments, as well as how you’re using it to improve your health!

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© Tangram Fitness 2013