Walk – Sleep – Walk again: Positive Psychology and the Quantified Self

Those of you that visit Mappalicious on a regular basis know that I´ve started tracking certain behaviors of mine a while ago (see: Are you short on Willpower and Self-Regulation? These Apps can help You). But until now, it was more or less about keeping a journal and a (sophisticated) to-do list.

FitBitFlexNow, I´m taking things a step further: At the beginning of the year, I decided to lose some weight. I´ve already lost about 18 pounds – but if things go my way, I will get rid of an additional 15 to 20 or so. Part of that has to do with controlling my diet – but I´m not going to talk about that here.

The other part is about burning enough calories per day, and regularly getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Both tend to be problematic issues when you´ve got a management job, a family, and several part-time “jobs” (e.g., blogging). Doesn´t sound like Positive Psychology at first glance, but I think physiological well-being plays a big role in psychological well-being – so it definitly belongs on the menu.

To support me on my misson, I´ve bought the FitBit Flex a couple of days ago.* It´s a wristband that is – among other things – able to track your steps and your sleep pattern. It´s connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth and is really easy to use. It comes in different colors, it´s waterproof and also pretty shock-resitant, so you can wear it pretty much all the time. One of my goals is to walk at least 10,000 steps each day. The Flex tracks your progress and (upon request…) gives feedback via five tiny LEDs – each LED amounts to roughly 20% goal fulfillment.

The first thing I found out: a regular day at the office (screenshot right; including walking to get on the bus and train etc., running around at the office) is far from enough to reach that goal. When I came home in the evening, there were still at least 4,000 steps missing. I compensated that by walking around in our living room reading on the Kindle but that drove my wife nuts – so I guess I have to find another way to get moving over the day. On the other hand, going for a one-hour walk almost nails it for the day (screenshot left).

FitBit Walk

You can also have a closer look at your progress over the day. Below, you´ll find the details from the regular office day. Basically, what you see is me getting to work in the morning, going to the canteen for lunch, getting a coffee at the cafeteria in the afternoon, and getting home in the evening. Finally, the outburst around 10 p.m. is the abovementioned reading vs. walking spree.


Now what about the sleeping part? Via klicking on that little display for about two seconds, the Flex can be switched to sleep tracking mode after going to bed. Once again, it bascially measures your movements, which does not 100% exactly mirror your sleeping pattern – but it´s a good estimate nevertheless. A graph will show you when you´ve been asleep, awake (e.g., running around) or restless (moving a lot while lying down). Below, you can see my sleep pattern from last night and the one before:


The first night, Little Guru slept  – well… – like a baby (should). The second night, he deciced to be a fully-grown pain in the ass – resulting in having to get up a couple of times during the night. To give it a positive twist: Isn´t it nice to recognize those micro-moments of love in a simple diagram? 🙂


* Other options would have been the Nike Fuel or Jawbone Up, but after reading some reviews on Amazon and consulting with some friends, I went for the FitBit Flex…

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