100 Days of Data

October 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Erica House in Health | Life

Early this year, shortly after New Years, I decided to track as much information as I could on myself for a few months to see if it may offer any insight into how I could improve my life (and particularly my happiness levels.) My Masters in Psychology focused on research design and methodology so data is kind of my thing. I shot this short video yesterday giving a brief intro to my ‘100 Days of Data’ Project and I also wanted to take a moment and say thank you to everyone who was so kind to me in my original video!

 

 

The gist of my project was to record as many variables of data that I thought could be impacting my overall mood. I started off with buying a small notebook from Target and kept it by my bed and each night I would record all the information. Every day I would write the following:

– Calories Consumed: Yes this is like a built-in Food Journal. Keeps you accountable and helps you to start learning how many calories are in the items you eat every day!

– Hours Slept

– How much water I drank

– Exercise activity and duration

– What my mood was on a scale of 1-10 for each of the following: Happiness, Sad, Anxiety, and Energy. Keep in mind that you can score a 0 on both Happiness and Sadness. Being low on happiness doesn’t necessarily mean you are high on sadness!

– Any other relevant information; if I started a new vitamin, met up with friends after work, meditated, had a particularly stressful event…

{Yes I would write down what I wore or else I’d end up wearing the exact same outfit every day to class and not even realize it!}

I didn’t know how long I would keep this up for but I ended up going to 100 days. You really wouldn’t be able to extract any meaningful information from it if you did it for less than a month. After the 100 days were up I got some old school graphing paper and graphed each of my 4 emotions. This is an example of what the first 10 days for Happiness may look like (I just used PowerPoint for this):

So once I had all 100 days plotted on the graph I looked to see where my Happiness was particularly high or low. Then I’d go back to the journal and see if I could find any trends that could explain the Happy Highs. I found 2 somewhat surprising results.

1. As I mentioned in the video the data confirmed I love peanut butter. If you take a look at just the one sample day I posted I eat a ton of veggies, complex carbs and fruits. Great overall but I realized from this experiment that I wasn’t getting nearly enough Fat as I should in my diet. So, every time I had a ‘eat PB out of the jar’ kind of day my Happiness and Energy level increased!

2. I was unaware how critical it was for me to do something social on a regular basis. I’m a creature of comfort (still am) and it’s sometimes hard for me to break out of my routine or put myself out there but, when I did, my mood would increase not only that day but for days after. Just hanging out with a friend for coffee was enough to keep my spirits up and anxiety lower for at least 1-2 days. Talk about cheap therapy!

There were other correlations I found but those were the two that I really attempted to change in my life after. I think I’ve done a pretty good job at it and waddya know – I’m happier now than I was a year ago!

If anyone has any questions at all about starting this please let me know! I’m a teacher, I love to help, it’s what I do.

Has anyone else ever done a ‘self study’? What do you think is the biggest contributing factor to your daily happiness levels?

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43 Responses

  • Wow this is really fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I definitely need social interaction especially since my office does is not really conducive to that.

    Just found your blog and really like it! Will continue to read!

    • Erica House says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m glad I thought about this ‘study’ as I haven’t been spending as much time social lately as I should be. It’s been extra hard for me lately to get some grown-up time in since I work as a professor and can’t really socialize much with my students (like I used to with my coworkers!)

  • 100% agree. Although I never tracked things to this extent, I know fitness is such a mood changer for me. PS You’re also great on video. Hope to see you make more!

    • Erica House says:

      Thank you! I really enjoy doing them and think all the hours I’ve logged in front of a classroom help me feel comfortable on camera. I just got a tripod so I’m hoping to shoot a few videos at the park over the weekend.

  • That’s really awesome – I read “The Happiness Project” last winter and tried to implement a few months of doing a new thing (one month of yoga x times a week, etc.) and while it wasn’t a raging success, it was definitely interesting. I really like the idea of jotting things down in a notebook daily… I grew up loving journals but just don’t have the time to write in them like I used to. This would be a great way to keep journaling, but in a quick and easy way!

    • Erica House says:

      Every time I pass by that book I wonder why I haven’t read it yet! I also used to journal and, even though I’ve read all the research showing how wonderful it is for you, I just can’t get into it anymore. I do really like quick data summary I would do at the end of the day – only took a minute or so and it was nice to keep track of everything.

  • Brittany says:

    I swear, you a girl after my own heart… data driven decision making — I LOVE IT!! What a great idea –I totally need to implement something like this in my life :) As Jillian Michaels would say, “Girl, you’re aspirational” ;)

    • Erica House says:

      Lol – I totally heard her voice just now saying that to ‘B’ as she worked out! I’m trying to come up with some new ideas for my next self study :)

  • ammeyer6s says:

    Interesting stuff! I’m terrible about keeping journals and such (which is weird since I’m a writer…). Earlier this year I started a journal where I wrote down at least one thing each day that I was thankful for, to remind myself that even when the majority of my day(s) sucked, I still had things to be thankful for. I did it for a little over six months. Then school started and I’d skip a few days and then try to go back and fill in the blanks and eventually I just stopped. I’ve also tried to keep exercise and/or food journals and those never seem to work out well either.

    Obviously our situations are a little different, but how do you find time to do so much? I feel like I barely have enough hours in the day before I’m too exhausted to do anything productive. What was your routine like when you were in grad school? Since I moved and now commute a total of three-ish hours a day, I feel like I don’t have any time to exercise (which is awful because I sit ALL day).

    • Erica House says:

      Keeping a gratitude journal for 6 months is impressive – I don’t think I could have gone much past the 100 days I recorded my data for.

      And THREE hour commute? Ouch! No wonder you feel like you don’t have a lot of time! My schedule is pretty tight but it helps that I only ‘work’ 24 hours for my teaching job (although I do about 5-6 hours from home). I also wake up at 5 a.m. every day to workout since I know I don’t have the time to do it later. When I get home at night I spend most of the evening working on blog stuff (or when I was in grad school, studying). You’ve inspired me to write a post up soon on time management and how to stay on top of things!

  • Heather says:

    What a great idea. I’m a total self-tracking geek with my heart rate monitor and always have a notebook on me, but committing to this for 100 days would be super helpful. Totally will do it! (PS I have a Garmin heart rate monitor which I love, but my boyfriend has a Timex and it works just fine too. Depends on how many bells and whistles you want. Timex was much cheaper.) Have a great day!

    • Erica House says:

      Thank you for the recommendations! I’m currently waiting on some spectacular BodyMedia gear to get here to try out but I think I”ll still need a ‘regular’ heart rate monitor. Everyone raves about Garmin but I’ve been hearing that the Timex are just as good and much more in my price range!

  • Erika says:

    This is so interesting. I use to journal every single night – I’m not sure why I stopped but I know I felt better when I did. It’s also fun to be able to go back to a past entry and read what went on that day and how I felt and has also solved some disagreements.

    I think we should all do this. I think people are more honest with themselves in writing. We can walk around and act happy or even sad when that isn’t really how we are feeling.

  • Erica-This is very cool! I really think this might benefit me. I record my workouts but never really considered my happiness level on a daily basis. Might give it a try! Great post!

    • Erica House says:

      However you record your workouts (I just write them down on a big monthly calendar) you should definitely jot a little note on their for your happiness as well. Won’t take but a second and you never know what you may discover!

  • This is actually a fascinating experiment! I’m an engineer, and somewhat of a data nerd too so it really speaks to me. I haven’t crunched the numbers behind it, but I’ve found that peanut butter out of the jar days are some of my happiest too!

    • Erica House says:

      My Dad and Brother are both engineers (well, brother will be when he graduates) so I have quite the soft spot for them (and mad respect for the really, really ridiculous amounts of math you guys have to do in college!)

  • Hi Erica,
    after analyzing my diary I figured out, that I should …

    • eat more fresh fruits,
    • eat more fresh fish -> bbq,
    • plan pasta/quinoa days only twice a week.

    I hope the result of the next 100 days is similar (or even better) to the result of my last 100 days.

    • Erica House says:

      Pasta and Quinoa can definitely add up the calories quick! I definitely need to add more fruit, I eat an apple a day but I need to get out of that routine and switch it up. Go for some berries for their antioxidants :)

  • Jen says:

    This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  • Lauren says:

    This is so interesting! I would love to do something like this for myself. I just worry that I’d quit or not be consistent enough for good data!

    • Erica House says:

      It’s definitely something you’d have to keep up with daily. Once I got about a week into it I did it out of habit and really enjoyed doing it. All it takes is 2 minutes a day and it wouldn’t hurt to try! I think you could start to get some meaningful data after just a few weeks.

  • Joanna says:

    I love this! I have an MPH so I have been feeling the pull to kind of “study myself” lately but thought it was a crazy idea. Lol. Glad to see you doing it. I actually think it’s a great way to gain insight. Social calls and healthy fats = good things!

  • Debbie Falls says:

    Hi Erica, we may be 20 years apart, but so similar. Maybe the Libra thing? Love analysis too. Back in the late 90’s when I was on my quest to lose weight and eat right and workout, I found a software program (no longer around) that allowed me to record not just food, exercise, calories burned, weight, but mood or anything. And then create charts out of the data. I did this for several years. I was a bit obsessed but it was my passion. Now I’m lucky to record a days worth of food or gratitude (so anxiously await your time management blog post)! Anyway, all good stuff to record and learn and then decide if you want to do something about it. (Love pb too, but need to stay away-no control). Can’t wait to hear more about what you’ve learned or tips.

    Re: heart rate monitors–first maybe decide if you really need one. Why do you want it? Another training tool? I think most people get them and then don’t use them much. Timex is good with all price points to choose from. You should decide what you want to use it for first, like just indoor workouts, running, etc, then you’ll be able to narrow down the options. Garmin is awesome as it includes GPS and is more accurate than the runkeeper from those that have compared. There is a new Forerunner 10 for just $140, but it does not have a heart rate monitor! Otherwise, the 210 w/HR is the next up at $250. I would pass on it as the run/walk feature isn’t great. The 610 is awesome but is $400 w/HR! Another company Soleus has a GPS/HR monitor for $200 that will also do run/walk intervals.

    Lastly (sorry this is so long), I love your vlogs! I have a couple idea’s I’ll email you about.

    • Erica House says:

      I love long comment! I never even thought to look and see if there was software around now that could track fitness/health/mood for me. I think I may spend some time digging around online later to just see what I can come up with. As for the heart rate monitor, I really just want one so I can see how many calories I’m burning when I’m working out indoors and out. I’ll stop and take my pulse manually and get an idea of where it’s at while I’m working out but I’d like a more accurate count. I’ve wanted one for so long now I hope it would be something I’d continue to use for a while (but, you never know!) Glad you are enjoying the vlogs – can’t wait for any suggestions you can come up with!

  • Brittany says:

    thatsection of the DVF always makes me laugh :) I just started my self-study yesterday!

  • Azka says:

    I just discovered your blog – and I love it! I have never kept a detailed journal like yours but I definitely know that good social interaction elevates my mood for days as well. A daily fitness activity is non-negotiable and pretty fundamental to my happiness. I’m pretty amazed that you were so disciplined over 100 days.I have to admit though, that the thing that made me jump for joy was finding out you’re in Pensacola! I live in Panama City and finding like-minded people in the …region… is always exciting!

    • Erica House says:

      It’s exciting and rare! Most of the people I interact with down here aren’t extremely health/fitness oriented. I’m actually surprised I didn’t go longer for 100 days – the most descriptive trait about me is probably ‘disciplined’!

      • Azka says:

        I’ve been ‘catching up’ on your life through your blog while I should be writing my M.A thesis. Oops. I’m training to be a sociologist with the aim to teach at college level someday soon. It’s fitting that I landed on your ‘research’ post :) I’ll be following your posts for motivation and to cheer you along on your personal quests. Good luck with your upcoming 5k!

        • Erica House says:

          Thank you! So what school are you attending out there? I haven’t come across many who have their MA in Sociology!

          • Azka says:

            I went to grad school at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Completed all the coursework and ended up taking a year-long break to move to PC and have a baby. I’m hoping to be done in Spring 2013. I actually got into Sociology because I enjoyed social psychology so much in undergrad! Sociology is an interesting field, particularly to teach, because it seems to open up minds so effectively when you talk about inequalities and social movements and so on. You know, when you tell your students something that challenges their beliefs and you can quite literally see the dissonance in their eyes – my favorite part!

          • Erica House says:

            My favorite chapter to teach in Gen Psych (aside from the Sex and Health sections) is the Social Psych chapter since it is incredible to tell students all about the Zimbardo and Milgram studies. Those are some of the lectures I often have students tell me years later that they still remember!

  • Patty says:

    Really fascinating. I would love to try this. I’m just back on WW and getting back into the swing of the food journal. It would be exciting to add in more details. Loving the vlogs!

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  • What a cool idea. I love data and spreadsheets and all of that jazz. I’m planning to copy this and start tracking some things, as I’ve had a very rough year and need to work on happiness, etc.

    Any tips for me before I get started?

    What are your thoughts on starting this now… or would it be better to start after the holidays?

    Thanks for any input you have!

    • Erica House says:

      I would go ahead and start it now – it may help you stay on track during the holidays if you know your going to have to record all of your food and exercising! My only tips would be to keep it simple, just jot down food, exercise, mood and other pertinent information and try to do it at the same time every day (I always did it at night and kept the notebook on my nightstand so I’d remember). Let me know how it works out for you!

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  • Hi Erica! What an amazing way to track information about yourself. I do this when I cleanse or when I feel I need some kind of “tune-up” with myself. Your way is more organized + I plan to cleanse first week of April so will do it your way! Eating pb out of the jar would for sure increase my happiness too. I actually wrote a post on anxiety tips as I had a hard time while i was recovering from bulimia with this. Thank you for sharing your journey, it was truly inspiring to me! Love + Shine CourtStar

  • This is awesome! I am so doing this. Thanks for sharing :)

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