On being … on an Easter huevo hunt

By Ingrid Sapona

This year I thought I’d try something different: Easter in Mexico. Good thing I didn’t have high hopes of finding many Easter eggs on the beach.

But, the sun and sand have made up for it!

I’ll get back to On being… April 15th.

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona


On being … tracked

By Ingrid Sapona

Have you ever kept a food journal? I have. No, it wasn’t anything like: dear diary, today I had THE best cheeseburger with blue cheese oozing out when I pressed down on the bun. It was far more boring. It involved writing down exactly what, and how much, I ate and the general time of day I ate it. The reason I kept the journal was because a nutritionist I was working with wanted me to.

I hated tracking what I ate. But, I knew it was important in two ways. First, it provided the nutritionist with information so she could track whether what I was eating was allowing for healthy weight loss. Second, and frankly the most important thing, was it kept me honest with myself about what I was eating and how much. (Or, to put it another way for those of you who are more new agey, keeping the journal made me more mindful of what I was eating.)

Keeping a food journal and regularly getting on the nutritionist’s scale were necessary evils that yielded useful information, but not data I’d ever dream of sharing with anyone other than the nutritionist. Indeed, I feel self-conscious writing about it here, but since it relates to the big picture that’s the topic for today’s column, I decided to include it.

Last week I was watching a Saturday morning kids show about innovations. One of the segments was about a device that you clip to your shirt and it buzzes if you slouch. I’ve been trying to pay attention to my posture lately because I’m pretty sure that most of the time (ok, all of the time that I’m not specifically thinking about it) my posture is bad. So, the idea of a little device that reminds me to sit up straight seems brilliant. (The fact that I can choose to unclip it also appeals!) Mind you, though I’ve added it to my Amazon wish list, I’ve not yet committed to trying it.

I’ve also used a pedometer to count the number of steps I’ve gone in a day or, say, on a hike. One of the things I always found interesting when I wore one is that often the number of steps registered didn’t seem to match my perception of how much I had walked. Sometimes I walked less than I thought I had, and sometimes more than I realized. I never really used the pedometer to motivate me to do more, which is certainly a reason many people use them 

Of course, there are lots more sophisticated devices on the market these days that people are turning to to track their level of activity and fitness. Today you can get wearable devices that track your steps, your speed, your heart rate, your blood pressure, and even the oxygen in your blood. And, since the info is collected digitally, apparently you can share the “data” these devices collect with friends and family over the internet.

I’m happy to report that none of my friends have shared any data like that with me. Most of the time I’m only moderately interested in paying attention to such information about myself and, at the risk of sounding rude, I’m really not interested in following others’ stats. If friends want to tell me about goals they’re working toward, I’ll cheer them on, but not minute-by-minute or erg-by-erg.

Apparently, according to a documentary I saw on TV about this, using devices to gather biofeedback and tracking it has become a movement called QS, which stands for Quantified Self. The movement’s motto is “self knowledge through numbers”. QS’ers believe that by tracking different things they’ll come up with personal data patterns that will enable them to transform their lives. They’ll do this – so I understand – by comparing the patterns with their moods to figure out what works best to make them feel good. As one of the folks interviewed put it, they’re looking for a personal formula for happiness.

While there’s lots about the concept of identifying one's formula for happiness that I have trouble with, my first stumbling block would be grading my moods. What categories would I put different levels of happiness into? Maybe one would be: ‘something that puts a smile on my face’; or maybe ‘something that tickles me’; or ‘something that moves me to tears’. But hold on, would something that moves me to tears be on the happy or sad end of the spectrum? See what I mean??

Maybe folks in the QS movement are on to something, I don’t know. But I can’t help wonder what they’re missing as they focus on crunching the data. If their heart rate quickens because a loved one surprises them with something, are they more interested in noting the increased beat than enjoying the moment? I hope not…

As for me, I already have a good idea of lots of things that never fail to increase my happiness… Mint chip ice cream, champagne, a fresh coat of snow glistening in the sun – these are just a few things that are sure bets when it comes to making me happy.

What about you? Have you got a good idea of the elements of your formula for happiness, or do you feel you need to track more data?

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona