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Tracking Physical Processes (Part 1)

Physical body events

This is part 1 of the tutorial on using the Better Mood Tracker for tracking events that are related to the body. This article discusses Food, Exercise and Pain.

Food and digestion

Warning! I’m going to discuss digestive system and food. This also means poop. Yes, poop. If you do not like this, skip this section.

A long time ago, I noticed that I feel really good, calm and tranquil after I eat a hearty meal of mashed potatoes, green canned peas with some canned fish, like sardines. Such meal was a joy, but took time to prepare. On most days I just ate whatever was available.  I ate whatever had the shortest line at the company cafeteria. I cooked cups and cups of rice that I ate over several days.

And my diet was chaos. , Sometimes, after being awoken by the nature’s call and sitting on the toilet in the middle of the night, I wandered – Whyyy? But the laws of nature hold, and everything that you ingest must go through your system and come out. How your crap looks when it comes tells some things about the state of your digestive system.

And so I did an experiment. I stopped eating random crap, and over a month has changed my diet. I moved the majority of my calorie intake to mashed potatoes and green peas, with occasional servings of sardines in oil. I still eat other foods, like salads and rice, but in moderation, and strive to get two meals of mashed potatoes and peas. I eat at more or less regular times or when I feel hungry.

There are two interesting findings that you can take a look at:

The results of this experiment have been great – my digestion is normalized, and my mood has improved. I’ve created my best app up to date, and if you are reading this, you are holding it in your hands.  I have left two months of terrible depression behind.

Tracking food is really simple.

  • Eating a meal? Start Better Mood Tracker and add a meal marker
  • Craving a snack? Add a snack marker.
  • Feeling hungry? Add a hunger marker.
  • Now if you want to time your digestive system, use the target marker whenever you go to the bathroom.

Now you get a history of your meals. Do they make a pattern? Do you see a squiggly line running vertically across multiple days? If you do, this is a good sign, meaning that your meals follow more or less consistent schedule, but if your meals are all over the place, you need to do something about that. How long does it take for the food to move through your system? Did you notice bowel movements after caffeine intake? If so, how fast? If you did, maybe you should time your caffeine intake in such a way, that the bowel movements happen before you get in a car and drive to work, or your digestive system may make you irritated, starting another agonizing day at work.

Exercise and Mood

Yes, Yes, Yes. You heard it time and time again that you need to exercise, that you need to go outside and move, and that it is good for you. But… YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT! Sounds familiar?

With Better Mood Tracker, you can *slowly* teach your brain to recognize the effects of exercise on your mood. Exercise is not a silver bullet for mood issues, it does not work instantly, but try this:

  • Over a course of several days, start exercising.
  • A little pushups here and there, and you deserve the right to use the “Strength” marker at the end of exercise.
  • A walk around the block and you can use the “Walk” marker sometime in the middle of the walk.
  • Sleep with sleep tracker, and it will remind you to rate your moods every day.
  • Track your productivity if you wish.

Now you have a week or so of data of how your body was feeling when you were exercising. You may feel slightly more productive, your mood may or may not have been elevated.

But just compare this to when you are depressed and your moods are dark, and you do not leave the house for days at a time. As long as you sit home, the moods keep being dark, and there’s no logical reason to go outside. Why bother?

I find it hard to believe, but my rational brain slowly gets convinced that on days when I leave the house and go on long walks, I feel better. I do more. For example, I write this article on a day when I went out for a walk under a gorgeous blue sky. I spoke to my father using video calling. I fed fish in a local lake, spending half an hour by the water. And this is the 3rd large user-manual like document that I’m writing today, after adding a lot more help to the app! I hope that the Better Mood Tracker would help you convince yourself that exercise is good for you, may help with depression and give a productivity boost.

Body Temperature.

You core body temperature fluctuates slightly over the course of the day. There are times when your body temperature is elevated and decreased. Getting an accurate understanding of when this happens over multiple days will help you get a better understanding of how your circadian rhythm is aligned against the regular clock.