As we all work to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections, we’re looking for better ways to take care of ourselves and others. While we’re practicing social distancing and staying quarantined in place, it’s important to keep self-care high on the priority list.
“Self-care” has morphed into something of a buzzword, and people use it to mean anything from getting your nails done to training for a marathon. But for a generation of people who want to know that their actions have measurable results, data and technology are fueling a self-care revolution. Thanks to wearable devices, smart textiles, and countless mobile apps, we can now quantify and monitor numerous details about our bodies and optimize our lives in the pursuit of wellness.
Self-care has become a multibillion-dollar industry — and the market will keep growing as long as technology continues to evolve, consumer costs continue to drop, and smart devices become more accurate. Currently, the market for a $50 chest-strap heart rate monitoring device consists mostly of dedicated fitness enthusiasts. However, once a fashionable heart rate monitoring T-shirt hits the market, the audience for this type of device will expand exponentially.
Quantifying your self-care can be as basic as counting the number of steps you’ve taken throughout the day or as elaborate as keeping tabs on your blood sugar level, stages of various sleep, and heart rate variability. Regardless of your needs, there’s likely a product or device that can measure your performance and help you set personalized wellness goals.
If you aren’t yet quantifying your self-care, begin by exploring these three areas:
1. Log your sleep.
You don’t need data to tell you that a poor night’s sleep leaves you feeling lousy the next day. That’s because sleep impacts virtually every cell, organ, and system in your body. Aside from making you feel drowsy, research shows that sleep deficiency can also increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and stroke over the long run.
Wearable devices (such as a Fitbit, Whoop, or an Oura Ring) can provide you with key insights into your sleep. You can learn how long it typically takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up throughout the night, and how much time you spend in the light, deep, and REM stages of sleep. These devices can even use data to provide a personalized recommendation of how much sleep you should get each night.
2. Monitor your heart health.
Wellness requires a healthy heart, and there are many wearables on the market that can help you understand trends in your heart rate. If you exercise or are an athlete, monitoring your heart rate during workouts can help you quantify your month-to-month fitness progress. You could also use a heart rate monitor to assess whether you are pushing too hard during intense exercise or if you still have room to push harder.
Heart rate monitors can be useful outside of athletic contexts, too. For example, after identifying your resting heart rate, an activity-tracking device could send you a notification whenever it detects a spike. This can help you identify activities and circumstances that place excess stress on your heart. From there, you can take steps to avoid these situations or learn how to better cope with them.
Likewise, there are factors other than resting heart rate that can provide great insight into your health, fitness, and stress levels. One of these is heart rate variability (which is the variation in time between heartbeats), which can tell you a lot about how your autonomic nervous system functions. And if you measure your heart rate during exercise, using your maximum heart rate as a benchmark helps you understand your overall fitness levels.
3. Document your journey.
Apps and technology platforms will compile your data into easy-to-read dashboards, but it will still be your responsibility to digest the numbers and make lifestyle changes. Stay organized and motivated by keeping a daily journal. Document your findings, share your biggest takeaways, and show gratitude for your wellness journey.
There will inevitably be times where you feel lost and dejected. When this happens, you can read previous journal entries that express a sense of emotional wellness and an improved outlook on life. Reminding yourself of your personal progress and evolution will hopefully help you overcome your current roadblock.
Performing self-care without data is like looking at a map without knowing where you are currently located. Thankfully, innovative wearable devices are unlocking the world of quantified self-care and guiding consumers toward wellness.
The best is yet to come. Companies will continue improving their offerings and making them more accessible, and before we know it, a vast majority of Americans will use technology and data to improve their health on a daily basis.