Measuring the Moment
How are health and habits impacted by momentary assessments? Ajay Chander shares his early experiences with real-time vitals and stress-tracking using the Sprout. The Sprout is a real time mobile data aggregation and analysis platform. It collects data from many on-body and off-body sensors and makes it available to applications that are running and process it in real time and it’s now available on android.
sensor | Sprout
The Sprout is a real time mobile data aggregation and analysis platform. It collects data from many on-body and off-body sensors and makes it available to applications that are running and process it in real time and it’s now available on android.
Some of the things that we’ve done on the Sprout have been talked at QS before. We measure cars and drivers together allowing us to see commute patterns and stress. We’ve put it on Formula One race drivers and we deployed it in some corporate bonus settings.
So for my personal experiments I used a couple of sensors when I found myself recognizing that I was mindlessly lost in the past. I would press a button my pebble watch and an app running on it would recognize and would record that event. And the same if I found myself mindfully in the present or mindlessly in the future.
And the second sensor was this very wearable health patch from our friends at vitalconnect, which amongst other things continuously records in streams your ECG and accelerometer information.
So these data streams were going to the Sprout, running on my android device, synchronized. We were running stress analytic on the data coming from the patch, and having myself record events, synchronizing allowed me to see changes in those biomarkers in that context.
So every now and again I would sort of peak – not all the time, but after a self-recorded event I would peak to look at how these markers were changing in the context of me self-sensing a change in my mindfulness.
So let’s look at the data. Blue is day one and red is day two. How much I stray from the moment is not a surprise to me. What was a surprise is between how much I’m lost in the future versus how much I’m lost in the past.
So at the end of day two I was really motivated to try some mindfulness strategies, and to my surprise they worked more than I thought they would, and at least my self-recorded sense of mindfulness decreased and my mindfulness increased.
More important than these self-reported measures were changes in heartrate and stress. So the first graph shows heartrate over day two, so my average heartrate over that day was 91 beats per minute. Unfortunately for me this is not an unusual heartrate.
The next day, that’s when I started applying these strategies it went down very significantly. And more meaning to me, the stress numbers went down as well. So this data and the biofeedback gave me a lot of motivation to carrying out some further experiments that I’m not talking about today.
So that’s the context in which I’m measuring mindfulness and quantifying that on the effects of stress. But let’s change the context. Let’s think about occasions in which we invite time-bounded stress into our lives and one of those occasions is the finale of Breaking Bad. Here the context is different. You are going to be stressed and video is just another data stream that can be processed by the Sprout just in the way the self-recorded events were.
So this is the story of tracking bad.
The first time I stressed spiked during the stress graph in the finale was when Walter White enters uninvited into the house of two people and we expect bad things are going to happen.
Let’s see what actually happens, and again I apologize for the spoilers. So my stress drops when it turns out that his intentions may not be as violent as the viewers had been led to believe. And there’s a sort of synchronicity in what my body’s experiencing and what the writers set us up for.
Then there was a spike in my stress when there’s a twist. The writers threw in a plot twist and we’re not really sure how he’s going to eventually say his goodbyes to these people. So well that happens, and then a little bit late in the episode my only moment of very short determine in reduction in stress is when he’s able to park his car in a very particular spot, and for those of you who have seen the episode, having him park his car in that spot is essential for the rest of his plan to work out. And at some point the tale comes to an end and I can breathe.
Look at how my stress drops right after the episode ends, and the reactivity in the stress is a healthy pattern after the episode ends, whereas during the episode it is sort of reminiscent of a chronic stress pattern at a high level.
So lessons old and new. Platforms are essential. Without them we cannot carry out micro experiments and come to personal discoveries. For me personally stress and mindfulness are very dramatically correlated. Context is everything. If you see yourself with the same stress patterns while watching Breaking Bad and while driving to work, you really need the context to figure out which is bad and which is good.
So we invite you to build your own experiments, plug in your own sensors, plug in your own analysis. The Sprout is available on android and we’re making it open soon if you’re interested. Please email me or talk to me afterwards.