For a while now, I’ve wanted to incorporate meditation into my daily routine. I’d like to feel calmer in all aspects of my life and I’ve thought for a while that meditation will help. The problem is, I just don’t do it. Even though I think it would be good for me, I can’t seem to get myself to meditate. Often, I feel I’m too busy and don’t have the time for it. But even when I do have the time, I just don’t do it. In the moment, it feels like a waste of time. I’m curious if I can devise a system to get myself to meditate. Can I perform this behavior consistently over an extended period of time? And on a larger scale, what effect will the act of meditation will have on me.
So, what can I do to get myself to meditate and monitor its effects. One possibility is to wake up 20 minutes early every day and meditate first thing in the morning. I know this will never work. I’ll sleep as long as I possibly can in the morning. I’ve tried waking up early to do a variety of tasks in the past and have failed miserably at maintaining any sort of discipline and consistency. I could set a specific time, midday or evening, to meditate everyday. The problem here is that my schedule fluctuates from day to day and there’s no reliability that meditation will be possible at any particulate time any day.
Another thought is to attach or couple the activity to an existing behavior. Something I do on a regular basis is exercise. I enjoy exercising. I want to exercise. Whether it’s running outdoors, biking at the gym, or just walking to and from home, exercise is a part of my everyday routine. What about pairing meditation with some form of exercise each day? At the end of my run, or bike, or walk home, I could take some time to meditate, framing it in the context of a “cooldown session.”
Starting this past Friday, I decided to see if I could implement an initial system into my daily life. I tried to meditate for 5 minutes once a day as soon as I got home right after some form of exercise. I downloaded a couple meditation apps to use and I also set an alarm on my phone for 6:15pm to remind me to meditate in case I hadn’t already done it that day. The goal would be to meditate for 5 mins for at least 4 of 7 days the first week, then increase to 10 minute sessions during week 2, 20 minute sessions during week 3, and hopefully meditate without a coupled exercise behavior by week 4. I would track the following data points: date, day, exercise activity, meditate y? or n?, how long, time of day, meditation app used, and how I felt afterwards. Below is a breakdown of my approach:
This is all very preliminary and I hope/plan to adapt it as well as possibly incorporating some form of tech, not sure yet. FWIW, I’ve successfully meditated for 5 minutes 2 out of the past 3 days, both immediately after going for a run. The notion of taking 5 extra minutes to sit and breathe after exercise seems very doable and unobtrusive. My concern is being able to meditate when I haven’t performed any sort of rigorous exercise and my day is jam packed with work and other activities.
We talked about our own personal experiences of health and well-being to identify common themes. We found that we had experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by options, choices, activities, people, places – the day to day disturbances that shape our levels of stress and happiness.
We initially thought that we would design a system whereby the user would make a list of decisions or items that were causing stress, with an inner loop monitoring their progress as they complete individual items. This system was just too general to be able to model – e.g. every different type of item had a different approach to sensing.
We continued on the theme of stress management, but focused on one item that helped us all manage stress – physical activity. We identified that exercise helped us maintain physical fitness and a sense of rhythm in our lives.
We decided to model a system that would help us monitor our stress levels and define a level of exercise relative to that stress level.
The goal of our system is to help a user maintain their level of stress.
The outer loop’s goal is to help the user maintain a target level of stress by defining an amount of exercise to be undertaken.
- The sensor is a manual test – every day the user assess their stress level from 1-7. For each point on the scale an amount of exercise is defined.
- The system compares the current stress reading with the previous reading.
- If there is a change, the amount of exercise is changed.
- If there is no change, the amount of exercise is maintained.
- The target environment is the amount of exercise planned.
- Possible disturbances include a lack of available time (if we only have 5 minutes to spare, defining one hour’s exercise is problematic)
The inner loop’s goal is to help the user complete the amount of exercise by comparing the amount they have completed to the amount required.
- The sensor is the user’s watch or clock. The user checks the number of minutes of exercise completed against the amount required.
- The system compares the amount completed to the required amount.
- The user exercises for the amount of time remaining.
- The target environment is the amount of exercise completed.
- The Possible disturbances include all the things that get in the way of exercise; apathy, competing time requirements, location
Clip from class
I’m not sure if this really fits the category of para-functionality, but I find “Boxed Water Is Better” to be an interesting example of a product that challenges our notions of what is normal in terms of consumption and functionality.
We’ve become entirely used to buying and consuming water in plastic bottles. Cartons have been reserved for milk, juice, and other liquids. “Boxed Water Is Better,” in their pursuit to create a more environmentally sustainable water brand, have found that boxing water is a much better alternative to plastic bottles. Their final product, they claim, is “part water company, part art project, part philanthropic project, and completely curious.”
I drank boxed water a couple weekends ago and it was definitely a strange feeling. I would go so far as saying it actually felt wrong. Half the time I expected milk to pour out of the carton. I highly recommend trying it out.
Posture is something we all say “I know” “I know” but what do we really know How many of us actually maintain good posture on a consistent basis? We spend hours on our computers being unknowingly lulled into ill-formed positions. In the long run, bad posture can lead to back injuries as well as chronic back pain. We can try to keep ourselves in good positions, how do we really know whether were maintaining good posture without some sort of consistent real-time feedback.
Imagine a plant living on your desk that mirrored your posture in real time. Good posture would trigger the plant to an upright, healthy, colorful state, while poor posture would result in a dying, dark, decrepit looking plant.
Sleep Twitter Feed
Sleeping is another example of something we think we know about, but really have no ability to discern what happened at any given moment. We often describe “good sleep” as getting long hours of uninterrupted sleep accompanied by a sense of refreshment in the morning; bad sleep would be restless, tossing and turning, with possible nightmares. But our analysis ends there. How do we know what really transpired in terms of our physiology, the cycles of sleep, the content of our dreams, and the relationship amongst them.
Imagine if our sleep state could express itself in a twitter feed, sending out updates relating to the body’s physical condition as well as the subject-matter of our dreams. Every morning you would wake to a timeline of your night, rich with detail and documentation providing all the highlights of the past night.
System 1: Staying On Schedule
For my final project, I am considering working with an older demographic that suffer from very early stage memory loss. People with this condition struggle on a daily basis with multi-tasking and time management. Ideally, I’d like to construct a system that helps them better manage their day and stay on track with their desired activities.
System 2: Managing Anxiety Through A Personal Contact
People who deal with memory loss also face a great deal of anxiety and nervousness everyday due to the confusion their condition causes. Ideally, a system would exist to minimize their levels of anxiety, which would help them better cope with navigating their day as well diminish the aggravation said anxiety causes on the disease itself.
System 3: Pain Management During A Medical Procedure
While I do have some experience with general anesthesia, I was curious to look into this feedback loop to see what exactly an anesthesiologist monitors during a procedure. Ideally, a patient can be set on a pre-determined course of meds to eliminate sensation, but it’s necessary for the anesthesiologist to be present to monitor patient levels, increase/decrease/change doses based on patient reaction, and handle any adversity that might occur during a given procedure such as taking longer than expected.
This go round, I tried to make my experiment simpler and clearer. The target behavior was still the same – get people to take a picture of their food right before they eat and text/e-mail the photo to me. The goal was similar as well in that it was to increase a person’s awareness of their diet through the course of the experiment and afterwards. My approach and scope, however, were a bit different.
Taking note of Step 2 in Fogg’s 8-Step Design Process for Persuasive Techonology, I sent out an e-mail to a small group of people who I thought would be receptive to this activity. Not only were they technologically capable, but they were all health conscious, photo-friendly, and “domesticated,” meaning they would be home through the weekend, would be maintaining normal hours (i.e not partying late night and then sleeping till the afternoon), and eating 3 meals a day. I also planned to simplify the experiment by doing it for only one day. This would relieve the pressure on me to be available for 3 days straight to send and respond to texts/photos.
I sent an initial e-mail to a group of 6 people that read as follows, ”Hey all, I’m working on an easy and effective method to improve your diet. If you’re interested in improving your diet for one day, this Saturday, let me know.”
A few thought my account had been hacked, so I had to explain that I was actually working on something aimed at improving a person’s diet. A couple didn’t respond and one was legitimately interested. I corresponded with the one person telling him I’d like him to send me a photo of his meals on Saturday right before he ate. I asked roughly what time he planned to eat his meals and told him I’d be texting him a half hour prior to those designated times to remind him to send a photo.
He agreed, and over the course of the day Saturday, I sent him 3 timed text messages. Within an hour or so of sending each text, I received a photo back for each meal. 3 texts, 3 photos. Here are his photos:
At the end of the day, I sent him the image of all his photos and asked him how performing the target behavior had affected his food choices through the day. He said: “I was absolutely thinking about it when I ate my first meal, but I kind of forgot about it as the day went on. Each time I got one of your texts, it was a fun reminder to take the picture. But I can’t say it had a real effect on what I chose to eat. What did affect me was the photo. I thought I ate pretty healthy yesterday, but looking at the photo my diet wasn’t really all that great. This photo is the most interesting part for me.”
So, round 2 was somewhat more of a success in that I identified a good audience, simplified the experiment, and executed a much more accurate trigger. Performing the target behavior itself did not seem to have a major effect on the one participant, but, similar to round 1, the presentation of a photo of past meals seems to have made a significant impression. The overall goal of making the user more aware of their diet was achieved, but in retrospect, not during the experiment.
If a round 3 were to occur, I would try to get a few more people to participate, figure out a way to automate the texts, perform the test on a weekday, post the photos directly to a blog as they come in, and send out the blog link to all of the participants after individual each meal so that everyone can see everyone’s photos as the day goes on. Based on my results from rounds 1 and 2, this additional feedback trigger of sending out the link to see all the photos in real time could have a much more profound impact on the overall results.
(As a side note, during this process, I discovered MedHelp’s app, Pic Healthy, which is a mobile app that’s trying to do what I’m doing here, but in a much more comprehensive approach. However, the app doesn’t appear to allow a user to set any sort of reminder triggers to perform the target behavior.)
Can we encourage better diet choices by having individuals send in photos of their meals right before they eat?
(quick disclaimer – I am terrible at drawing, but figured this would be a good challenge to see what I can do)
Fantasy Device #1: Facial Image Prediction Tool
This fantasy device stems very loosely from those anti-smoking ads that use the visual of an actual lung being harmed by cigarette smoke in hopes of discouraging (and scaring) people from smoking.
It would be interesting to use somewhat similar tactics on an individual’s facial appearance with a more predictive element to better inform a person on the potential impacts of their behavior.
By submitting a range of self-tracked data and auto-magically processing that data through a facial modeling software program, it would be fascinating to realistically predict and display how a person will appear in the future dependent upon their past/current/ and potential future behavior patterns. The ability to toggle on and toggle off certain specific behaviors to see how much or how little they affect one’s aesthetic could also be an extremely powerful motivation tool.
So often we’re focused on the current moment and don’t realize the long term of affects of habitual behavior. This would hopefully encourage a healthier lifestyle, or at least give people a clearer sense of how their behavior affects them over the course of time. The system could be applied not just to the image of a face, but also other body parts, organs, systems, etc.
Fantasy Device #2: Memory Monitor
Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It is a deadly disease that affects 5.4 million people in this country. 1 in 8 older Americans (defined as being over the age of 65) are affected by this disease. With the first baby-boomers reaching age 65 this year, it’s predicted that the number affected will double within 10 years. In addition, there is also a new condition called MCI, mild cognitive impairment, that is now being diagnosed as a pre-cursor to Alzheimer’s. It’s expected the cases of MCI will equal if not surpass Alzheimer cases.
While we don’t have a cure for this form of dementia, we do have treatments that have proven effective if the degenerative condition is caught in the earliest of stages. Recent research has indicated that through simple cognitive assessments, we can reliably predict people who are more susceptible to the disease.
The “Daily memory Monitor” would be an inexpensive, easily accessible system whereby an individual could quickly and regularly test their memory capabilities to track the degradation of their brain and provide predictive preventative care.
Targeting users 40 years old and above, the system would (1) send monthly reminders via e-mail/text for a user to log on to a web site and perform the memory tests. Before performing the treats, (2) a user would input behavioral data based on their past month’s behavior, including any medicines or treatments they underwent. They would then (3) perform the memory test. After each test, (4) a person’s performance score would be posted and compared to previous tests to evaluate progress or lack thereof. The data would also be compared to a user’s peers that are both healthy and unhealthy. Overall, this combined analysis would create a predictive score that would determine the chances of a user developing Alzheimer’s. Depending upon a person’s historical/current/predictive score, (5) treatment options would be recommended and monitored. And if past treatments had been prescribed and followed, the program would recommend further and/or alternative treatments. The entire process would repeat on a monthly basis to track a user’s long-term progression.