Daily Well being Tracking as a Couple
mood & emotion | social life & social media
Jon Cousins gives his talk “Daily Well being Tracking as a Couple” at the Silicon Valley Quantified Self Meetup #12. He and his partner, Alex, track their well-being together. Their theory is that emotionally close couples all experience ups and downs together, and that being in tune with somebody else should mean that your ups and downs are kind of in sync, a kind of fellow feeling, maybe what Neuroscientists call feeling somebodies pain with neurons. Their combined wellbeing data suggested that since they started tracking they’ve become much closer.
self-report cognitive functioning
I got up this morning and the first thing I did as everyday was measure my well-being with a special pack of playing cards. My score today was 75%, and that was a significant 31 point rise since yesterday. My partner Alex uses the same system to rate her well-being and she scored 77% which is almost an equally large 23 point rise since yesterday.
Out temporary low scores were due to an issue between us, which was largely resolved during a morning walk. Exchanging score around 6 O’Clock this morning made us happy and proud that we had made good progress since yesterday.
We took time out to tackle an important issue and that was a great strategy. The walk in the woods cleared the air, brought us closer together, and sharing our better scores together this morning made the day begin better understanding between us and made the day tons better.
And that was thanks to a new way of measuring well-being which I’m going to talk about in a second or two.
Alex and I live together, mostly with Alex’s two daughters and we’re unquestionably a Quantified Self couple because that’s how we met. Most know that Alex was a founding director of Quantified Self and she was at Kevin Kelly’s house for the first meetup in 2008. I talked about mood tracking and in the inaugural meetup in London in 2010, Alex watch that on video. We met at the first QS conference in 2011. We started to get to know one another online and at conferences, and last year I moved to California to progress the mental health work that I had started in the UK with Mood Scope.
I applied for and got my US visa. Alex and I began spending time together. We started a proper relationship and moved in together this February. And like any QS couple we viewed our budding romance as a tracking opportunity.
Living together was a huge step for both of us. Alex had had one long marriage and then lived with housemates. I had plenty of relationships but have never actually lived with anyone, mainly because of the depression that I had suffered with since my early 20s. I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. Alex meantime has faced battles with her own low mood and chronic pain, so living together was a big step for us both.
So there was I, someone with a mental health problem diagnosed and no experience in co-habitation. It was a great for Alex. Seriously, we wondered if self-tracking might be a way to support our relationship. We both previously tracked mood but knew physical health could play a part to, as well as the quality of relationships with other people and all of that adds up to wellbeing.
So we set out to develop a way of tracking wellbeing, sharing scores with each other. That consisted of a deck of 12 hexagonal playing cards which we developed called Wellb.ee. And we looked at existing wellbeing measure but none quite what we wanted, which was to measure the three dimensions of the World Health Organization see as making up wellbeing. So that’s mental health, physical health, and social health. The degree of connective you have with other people.
We devised a simple test which rates in those dimensions and turned it into a card game. We rate ourselves independently immediately after getting up in the morning, before doing email or drinking coffee. And this early procedure captures a baseline level of wellbeing before other events have kicked in that maybe affect your score during the day.
We record our scores on deliberately on very low-tech, impressively low-tech paper graph. Quickly checking in the kitchen, it doesn’t take long but incredibly useful. Paper graphs are an easy way to see one another’s scores.
Alex’s daughters, 11 year old Samantha, and eight year old Megan wanted their own sets of Well-Be. They used those to tell us how they were feeling. They spend some of their time with their dad. They live with us but spend some of their time with their dad. And it’s particularly helpful in that regard to Samantha because it lets her articulate her feelings as she transitions with her sister between our house and her dads. As a result we understand her better as she feels more heard.
So what have we learned? Even before we share scores with each other, Well-Be lets us understand ourselves whether our changes in wellbeing are due to physical health, mood, or connectedness issues.
You’ve probably experienced getting up on a day and feeling a bit off and not really knowing why. And what we’ve found is that Well-Be can kind of help you get a handle on that. But for us by far the biggest benefit is seeing one another’s progress, because it’s a safe way to let the other person know how you’re doing.
It’s an objective, non-judgmental way to explain why you’re feeling good or more importantly why you might be feeling bad. And then what we do is we quickly workout repair strategies. So an example was I felt anxious, so Alex suggested write down all of your worries and then we’ll work ion them together.
Alex was suffering from some shoulder pain, so we agreed it would be a good idea for her to schedule an appointment with for a massage. When Alex was missing connections with other people it seemed like a good idea to get her to go out and spend time with friends.
Our theory is that emotionally close couples all experience ups and downs together, and that being in tune with somebody else should mean that your ups and downs are kind of in sync, a kind of fellow feeling, maybe what Neuroscientists call feeling somebodies pain with neurons.
Really rewardingly our combined wellbeing data suggested that since we started tracking we’ve become much closer; our scores have become closer, we’ve become closer. On May 28th after a couple of weeks tracking, we had a significantly helpful conversation walking again in the Red Woods. Establishing a new relationship obviously means learning more about each other. And the walk in the trees unquestionably moved our relationship to a higher level.
For this our graph shows a small degree of similarity with a correlation curve coefficient of just 0.22. After May 28th there was much more coherence. The math bears this out. The correlation and the data rise is very significant to 0.63 and a correlation coefficient, zero mean that there’s no relationship between the data, while one would mean it’s going up and down absolutely in tandem.
We can’t know of course whether tracking our wellbeing has led to the relationship getting better, or it simply spotlighted something that was already going to happen. But it’s really heartening to see the subjective evidence. Reaching for the Wellb.ee everyday has obviously going to be something that we do. But more importantly it’s a terrific great way for our family to stay in touch with one another, to communicate better and to find new ways and better ways of helping each other thrive.
Thank you very much.