Monthly Archives: December 2014

My Quantified Self 2014 in Review

I had a good Quantified Self year this year. As a long time logger and casual athlete I have always logged my personal data in some form. This year with the support of the Quantified Self community I was able to explore two specific areas. First, I moved stress tracking from self reporting to the use of wearable devices. Though I bought a few more devices than I would have liked I found that heart rate variability measurements using $65 worth of equipment was sufficient to track stress. Second, I was able to pull out insights about consciousness and heart rate variability that set the stage for future studies.

I explored 20 ideas this year that I organized into five umbrella studies. I started looking at the data I had collected through self reporting of “Upset Events.” I followed that up with a look at Upset intensity given different situations. After seeing the limits of self reporting I started using different devices to measure stress, settling on Heartmath used during working session. Using the device I discovered Freakback can have an effect on results. After learning how to work through that I completed a first study on how I recovered from Upsets.

As I was conducting these studies I had an emerging idea that emotion is navigation. The regularity of emotional shifts seemed like “sighting” as I worked through different ideas. As I worked on this idea I found that Heartmath was too limited in what it measures. Heart Rate Variability has a more direct measurement in rMSSD. I dropped Heartmath and started using Sweetwater HRV’s SweetbeatLife to monitor rMSSD. Using this tool I started measuring stressful events like getting a tooth drilled and firing a shotgun. I played with machine learning and straight statistical regression and determined my “stress point” when read by rMSSD. This provides me a tool to study a variety of situations going forward.

Along the way I gave five Quantied Self meetup talks, 2 in London, 1 in Amsterdam and 2 in the Bay Area. In London and Amsterdam I did my talk We Never Fight on Wednesdays, and in London my followup Don’t Just Stand There. In the Bay Area I presented my talk Every Other Minute where I talked about the navigation impulse. And finally my Bay Area presentation on heart rate variability and Flow. These talks went well and I am set up to give a presentation at the QS Global conference (QS15) in June.

Some of the 20 ideas did not pan out. My work on 800 numbers went nowhere. Ideas about reading my heart rate while doing The Work by Byron Katie did not have sufficient detail to be interesting. Several other ideas blew up on the launchpad. However, I’m pleased with the progress this year. In my next post I will talk about the lessons I have learned during this work.

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Glucose & Heart Rate Variability

My sister-in-law is a doctor and follows my Heart Rate Variability (HRV) adventures. She suggested that I look at my glucose levels and see how it effects HRV. My first step was to buy a glucose monitor and I was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of drawing blood daily. A trip to Target to buy an Onsync glucose meter was pretty easy and the blood drawing process is far less uncomfortable than I thought it was.

So I started pulling my glucose each morning when I got up. Immediately afterward I took my HRV focussing on rMSSD using the Polar H7 and Heart Rate Variability Logger. I took a reading for 1:30 with three 30 second readings which I averaged out for the session. While taking the reading I used the Paced Breathing Android App. After I was completed I entered the glucose reading and rMSSD in an excel spreadsheet.

Here is what I found.  Glucose levels have a strong negative correlation (Pearson value of -0.4) with HRV. That means higher blood glucose had a strong relationship with lowered HRV.  That means eat food that jacks your blood sugar and your are less responsive to your environment. Eat candy and be dumber when talking to your boss.

Here is a graph of eight readings:

GlucoseReading

Looking at the figures you can see that generally my glucose level averaged about 104. When I fasted (12 hours of no food) it dropped below 100. The rMSSD was between 55 and 78, all well above the stress line. So my morning readings showed no stress and normal blood sugars. What it also showed was a strong correlation. So measuring before and after daily events will give more information to see if I really am dumber talking to the boss after eating candy.