What Is Self Quantification and How Could it Help You Upgrade Yourself
I am a data nerd.
I love having data that I can use to solve a problem or track my progress in a certain area.
This is actually kind of funny because I’m not really a big fan of math. I was just never that interested in it as a kid. Maybe it’s because the math problems I always did never helped me to solve anything besides the equation.
Numbers that can be put to use to help me reach my goals is another story though. It doesn’t even have to be numbers though. It can be any kind of data.
This is the reason that I fell in love with the Quantified Self movement.
What is Self Quantification?
We all do a lot to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Do you know how you’re doing? I mean, do you actually know if you’re healthier and better off than last year?
Most of us have a Fitbit or some other wearable or tracker built into our smartphones today. Are you using yours? Are you using any of the data to get better, lose weight, gain more muscle?
Essentially, self quantification is tracking some metric related to yourself in an effort to better understand or change it.
Most people participate in some sort of self quantification without even realizing it. Using a pedometer or step counter like a FitBit, counting calories, trying to increase the amount of pushups you can do or the miles you can run, and rating your pain from 1 to 10 at the doctor are all forms of self tracking.
There is a whole movement behind collecting and analyzing this type of data. It’s called the Quantified Self movement.
Here is how Wikipedia describes this movement:
The Quantified Self is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical). Such self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors (EEG, ECG, video, etc.) and wearable computing, is also known as lifelogging. Other names for using self-tracking data to improve daily functioning are “self-tracking”, “auto-analytics”, “body hacking”, “self-quantifying”, “self-surveillance”, and “Personal Informatics”. In short, quantified self is self-knowledge through self-tracking with technology. Quantified self-advancement have allowed individuals to quantify biometrics that they never knew existed, as well as make data collection cheaper and more convenient. One can track insulin and cortisol levels, sequence DNA, and see what microbial cells inhabit one’s body.
When talking about biohacking, one major area to consider is how to measure the results of any given experiment or hack. If you can’t track it, you can’t hack it.
The most important metric to track is the way you feel. Listening to your body can be the most accurate data you gather.
How can it help?
Like I’ve said before, you need to have a way to track various metrics in order to see if things your are doing have any effect.
While the world of self quantification used to involve tedious amounts of notes, spreadsheets, numbers and equations, technology has finally started to catch up.
Now there are many different apps and pieces of technology that will not only keep track of this data, it can also collect and analyze the data for you.
Lets look at what the majority of people are tracking.
It seems that everywhere I go I see people wearing FitBits or other types of wearable trackers or smartwatches.
They are probably the most used self quantification device out there.
There are also apps that will track your runs, bike rides, workouts and walks. Not to mention the heart rate monitors that strap to your chest.
Here are the most useful metrics to track in my opinion when it relates to fitness.
- Distance traveled
- Heart rate while exercising
- Heart rate variability
- Resting heart rate
- Body fat percentage
- Body Mass Index
- Workout duration and intensity
If you are serious about your health then you might be interested in keeping track of what you eat.
Some people only pay attention to calories, but I believe that your macro nutrient levels are much more important.
My favorite app to do this is called MyFitnessPal.
Another app I recommend quite frequently is the Stress Detective App. This app not only allows you to measure you HRV using a chest strap heart rate monitor, you can also use it to measure for food sensitivities that may be causing inflammation or other negative effects.
Macro nutrients are a great beginning to measure your nutrition, but if you want to take it one step further, you could start monitoring your micronutrient intake and levels.
Tracking your intake of these is relatively simple using some type of supplement tracker and an app like MyFitnessPal, but measuring their level in your body will take a little more effort. This is most easily done with a blood test.
Although a little pricey, you can order a blood test online from a company like LifeExtension or WellnessFX. (AFF Link) You just select the specific labs you would like, pay for them and the go to the nearest supported lab and get your blood drawn. Within a couple weeks you will receive your results and if you paid for a consultation, you will get to have the labs interpreted by someone qualified to make recommendations based on the results.
This can give you some great data that will allow you to tweak the supplements and your diet to obtain optimal levels of performance. It can also let you know how the other various areas of your body are functioning and give you clues to what you need to do to improve them.
These tests can give you insight on:
- Lipid Profile (cholesterol and triglycerides)
- Inflammation Biomarkers
- Blood Sugar (glucose, insulin, hemoglobin A1c)
- Liver Enzymes
- Red Blood Cells
- Thyroid Function
- Bone Health
- Kidney Function
- White Blood Cells
All of this information can be overwhelming, so I highly recommend that you have these tests interpreted by someone qualified to do so.
Measuring your sleep quality and comparing the results to the other data you are collecting can help you to realize things that are having a positive or negative influence on your sleep.
If you want more information on tracking you sleep, check out the article we wrote.
This is the area that I am tracking the most right now.
If you are interested in this kind of tracking, you can check out those sites about or this article I wrote about nootropics that has a section on tracking your cognitive function.
Guide To Using Nootropics
Stress, Mood & Energy
Tracking these metrics can be as simple as using a number from one to ten to rate how you are feeling in relation to your stress level, mood and energy level. There are many different apps that can help you do this. You could also just include this in part of your daily journaling.
Another good way to help you track your stress levels is by using Heart Rate Variability. The easiest way to do this is by using a chest strap heart rate monitor and an app like Stress Detective.
One of my favorite ways to track and combat stress is by using something called heart coherence training. This is like meditation with real time feedback.
It also helps to teach you to control your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). After doing this for a few months, I noticed that I automatically started to breathe this way when I was stressed or feeling overwhelmed. I think everyone should own one of these sensors.
There are a few different types you can buy. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can get the InnerBalance Sensor which just clips to your ear and plugs in to your device. Just make sure you get the right one for your device.
The other type is called the emWave2 device. This is a stand alone sensor that you just place your finger on and breathe in and out with the breath pacer. It also hooks up to your computer to track your progress and save your sessions.
Check them out over at Heart Math.
You can track virtually anything about your life or wellness. I like to keep track of various vitals at least once or twice a week and sometimes even multiple times a day if I am trying out some new product or device or if I am not feeling like I am performing at my best.
These things are:
- Blood Pressure
- Heart Rate
- Blood Oxygen Saturation
What do you do with all the data?
This part isn’t as straight forward. What you do with the information you have recorded depends on the reason you were tracking it in the first place.
If your goal is weight loss for example, you can compare times when your weight or body fat percentage went up or down to the things you were eating, your exercise, stress levels and sleep quality.
As you can probably assume, the more information the better. It is much better to be able to compare 5 different times your weight fluctuated to the other variables that may be relevant than just using one or two times and sets of data.
If you’re trying to increase your quality or duration of sleep, you can compare the nights when you had good and poor sleep to what you ate, your exercise, stress levels and supplements you took.
There are also some apps that can help you discover some of these insights without going through tons of data. The one I use is called Addapp. Apps like this can help you discover things that you might not have otherwise noticed, but there is no substitute for analyzing the data yourself.
I am definitely looking forward to the day that an app is created that can take data from all these different sources and put it all together in to one place while helping you discover what influence they are having on your health.
One app to watch is Enquos. This app is like Apple Health on steroids, and it just keeps getting better. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.