We are fortunate to live at a time when technology is enabling the exploration of solutions because of expanded connectivity. Digital technologies connect us to each other and to information at an ever increasing rate. One of the interesting fields that is gaining quick traction in this space is called the Quantified Self Movement. It is essentially self-knowledge through self-tracking.
This is not new. Benjamin Franklin famously tracked 13 personal virtues in a daily journal to push himself toward moral perfection. Not sure how well that worked, but our curiosity and capacity for self-scrutiny remains intact. If anything, our house of mirrors has gained momentum with new gadgets that make data collection cheaper and more convenient.
Big data and wearable tech allow us to quantify biometrics we never knew existed. Want to know your insulin or cortisol levels, or sequence your DNA, or learn what microbial cells inhabit your body? There’s an app for that. Apple’s app store’s medical category has more than 13,000 individual apps for download. The mobile health industry is estimated to be worth $400 million by 2016, according to ABI Research. Last year, mobile users downloaded 247 million health-related apps, according to market research company Research2Guidance.
- Want to lose weight? Keep a food log. Use MyFitnessPal, pen and paper, or just take a picture. Tracking your food intake will lead to interesting insights about your diet and health. A 2008 study also showed that the act of tracking food further facilitates weight loss.
- Searching for happiness? Track your mood. AskMeEvery tracks your mood for 3 months and might add insight to your personal and professional barometer readings. Other good apps include MercuryApp and TrackYourHappiness. We often are not mindful of our changing moods or the factors that affect them. Tracking them daily keeps us self-aware.
- Need to move more? Track your activity. There are tons of great tools including Fitbit, Nike Fuelband, Jawbone UP, Basis, Omron, Moves, and more. Your iPhone can also track your activity.
Why do people go to the trouble of tracking health data for themselves or for loved ones? Some say they get results:
- 46% of trackers say that this activity has changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care.
- 40% of trackers say it has led them to ask a doctor new questions or to get a second opinion from another doctor.
- 34% of trackers say it has affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition.
Track your way to health and happiness? Beats wasting time looking at cute kitten videos on uTube . . .