Addicted to life measurement? How much is too much?

June 11, 2024

Counting calories, logging workouts, checking sleep quality, getting your steps in, screen time, heart rates... It seems we're all tracking something these days. Of course, wanting to be healthy is unquestionably a good thing, but are we all getting a bit carried away? Is the constant measuring of our habits and behaviours actually good for our mental health?

When healthy turns unhealthy

Seeing progress in anything is motivating, continuous improvement and progression sounds sensible, but it also sounds like something out of a project management textbook rather than a mantra for life. Should we be running ourselves like a project, with milestones and goals? And where is the tipping point between a healthy habit and an unhealthy obsession? 

When you start stressing about hitting exact targets or comparing yourself to others, it can start to feel unhealthy or when you cannot enjoy your day because your device has told you that you haven’t had enough sleep, rather than because you actually feel tired. 

Forgetting how to live

If we’re using apps to tell us if we’re tired, need a break or to stand up (he writes having not stood up for a couple of hours) are we just not listening to our bodies as much as we should? Or with modern working habits as they are and our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are these kinds of interventions actually just what we need?

We step, we get it 

Another great example I heard recently was from a friend. They explained how if their phone has run out of battery or they forget to track themselves correctly, they do not feel like they’re having a nice day. And yet if they do remember it? They stress about hitting their step count the entire day. To me, there is a difference between using digital products that motivate versus those that start to control you. If you can't enjoy a day out without hitting your step count, it might be time for a rethink. With our own app Go Jauntly, in order to motivate users we built in the idea of ‘walking challenges’ for example, walking for 15 minutes a day or walking a set distance throughout the entire summer. Rather than focusing on individual steps, the aim was to create a sense of accomplishment without being fixated on a particular metric. 

Our work with the University of Derby saw us create an app that encouraged users to spend 15 minutes a day noticing nature. The app asked users how they felt before and after being outside and prompted them to take photos or note down the things they’ve seen around them. The app proved that stopping and noticing the nature around you actually improved mental wellbeing. We then went on to incorporate that thinking into the Go Jauntly app as our Nature Notes feature. So next time you venture outdoors, instead of meticulously tracking your steps or heart rate, consider taking a moment to engage in a mindful activity. Rather than fixating on minute details, direct your attention to the wonders of nature. Count the various bird songs you can hear or observe the diverse types of leaves on the trees. While technology can facilitate an obsession over the trivial, it can also be harnessed to promote relaxation, reconnection with the natural world, and the discovery of new and exciting experiences.

While technology offers many benefits, it's crucial to recognise that a happy life extends beyond clever tech. And remember, the best things in life can't be measured!

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