Do Mindfulness and Health Trackers Mix? Deepak Chopra and Fitbit CEO James Park on stress management with data

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I am a believer in technology. My first job with TIME was to put in place new communication systems and convince the relevant foreign correspondents to be loyal to them. Alexa and Google Home have colonized my apartment. And not only did I give my DNA to 23rd Mother, but I also answer their questions below to find out if I like olives or become car victims so they can map those genes. (Of course, I also want to donate my body to research after I’m done with it – and if there was a way to send me a report back on what they found, I would ask.)
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So you can imagine how excited I was when Fitbit and other portable health trackers, including Amazon Hello and u Apple Watch, has begun to come up with ways to show us data on our stress levels. There is a group of new devices that monitor not only our heart rate, daily steps, and the amount of our sleep, but the quality of our sleep per hour, skin temperature, and fluctuations in our saturation. of oxygen in the blood. Many of these biomarkers refer to our mental well-being and physical health, and there is a new wearable technology that captures our emotions.

But even data geeks like me realize that there are crucial questions to know if technology is a solution or part of the problem when it comes to stress management. It’s fair to wonder if the act itself is check constantly personal health statistics on our phones are antithetical to the type of attention and meditation practices that relieve stress. And then there are all the relevant issues around data privacy.

So, when annual global spending on portable technology grows to more than $ 80 billion a year and stress and anxiety rates rise simultaneously, we ask ourselves: is a quantified self a happier self?

I spoke with an attention expert Deepak Chopra, MD, is CEO of Fitbit James Park look up some of these questions. They recently partnered in a series called “Mindful method“, An expansion of Fitbit PremiumHealth track and content offerings. It includes short video meditations led by Dr. Chopra on cultivating the mind-body connection, achieving better sleep, mental well-being, and my favorite, “reset your bad mood”. This collection is associated with new Fitbit technology which detects electrodermal activity responses (EDA)–Small electrical changes on your skin that may indicate a stress response.

Both Park and Chopra will tell you that they see technology as a neutral player, one that can be used for a better life or exploiting the weaknesses of society. Park takes the example of controversial algorithms that have favored extreme content sharing on Facebook and other social platforms, which can lead to negative behavior. Ma Park sees positive opportunities in apps that provide increasingly personalized health offerings: “What’s fascinating to me is that you can use these same tools to keep people focused and try to push them in ways that really result in truly positive behavior. . “

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And on the fundamental question of whether health tracking devices are an impediment to awareness or a facilitator, Chopra is unequivocally in the latter field.

I think of technology as the evolution of human consciousness. Who created the technology? We created the technology, didn’t we? And the technology is unstoppable. So how do we use it to our advantage? says Chopra.

To that end, more portable health followers like Fitbit add mental well-being features and content. For example, these devices can help you become more aware of your emotional fluctuations by recording your moods and showing data on the biometrics of related well-being (such as the quality of your sleep, your physical activity, your heart rate). , or some of the latest wearable abilities that can recognize stress reactions in your voice or skin).

There isn’t much independent research on whether digital recording of your moods is effective in managing your mental health. However, the concept is similar to old suggestions that it may be beneficial for keep a humor diary manually to identify your emotional patterns and triggers.

However, according to some studies, monitoring their biometrics may leave some users feeling both skilled and anxious. You could tell ours smartwatch relationships they are complicated. Don’t just do it we share intimate information with them, our weight, what we eat, how we feel, but now they give us biometrics that only elite athletes had. These are things we didn’t know we had to worry about as if we were getting enough REM sleep or ours heart rate variability. That amount of information can be overwhelming, and disheartening if you’re not meeting your goals. And on the other hand, some people become anxious when they no have access to their health followers.

In many ways, our gamified brains are prepared to respond to the immediate feedback of trackers. Follow a guided breathing exercise and watch your heart rate drop – it’s satisfying.

“Today, we’re not even talking about bio-feedback; we’re talking about bioregulation, which means real-time data, real-time feedback, and real-time intervention, ”says Chopra.“ But, ”he adds,“ it’s a mistake to think that the quantified self isn’t even the qualitative self. Quantitative self is a data that makes you feel better about yourself without feeling guilty. ”

Brian Ach-Getty Images for TIME Fitbit CEO, President and Co-Founder James Park (L), speaks with MSNBC Live Anchor, Stephanie Ruhle, at the TIME 100 Health Summit on October 17, 2019 in New York.

If you’re like me, this kind of data revolution isn’t so alarming, but there are obvious sensitivities about all the personal health information in the hands of private companies. This edition is particularly relevant for Fitbit, which was acquired by Google earlier this year. Park assures us that Fitbit’s data will not be used by Google for advertising targeting, thus explaining the terms of the agreement: “Regulators have said,‘ Hey look, you can’t just make a verbal commitment, you have to be in it. reality inscribed and codified in the technology itself, and in the systems that impose separation. ”

How data is collected and used is without a doubt one of the most annoying questions of our time. But Chopra believes it is the most valuable tool of medicine in managing chronic health conditions. He is working on a separate project for which thousands of people have agreed to share their biometric data and other personal data from the grave to the grave. “Data can give you an immediate understanding of how to manage someone’s concerns, be they mental, emotional, physical, or even spiritual,” he says.

Read more: My Fitbit Is More Interested In Me Than I Am

Even those who have avoided self-quantified movement probably agree that we need more and better mental well-being interventions. There is evidence that the pandemic has aggravated what was already a stress epidemic. The American Psychological Association recently said that 84% of American adults said they feel at least one. emotion associated with prolonged stress in the previous two weeks. And, as Chopra and other health experts point out, long-term stress has all sorts of consequences on cascading physical health, which can include high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and even more.

At the very least, the debate over whether technology helps with mental well-being is bringing more awareness of the tremendous tax burden. Rampant stress and burnout. And this conversation goes beyond changing our individual lifestyles and behaviors. It is also about shifting institutions and workplace culture to address some of the systemic causes of stress. And in that fight, data is an ally.



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As always, you can send me comments at: [email protected].

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