The role of technology in our lives is rapidly evolving as we become increasingly dependent and less willing to separate ourselves from it. We’re incorporating technology into our lives like never before through the explosion of wearable technology from fitness trackers like the WHOOP strap and the Apple watch to augmented reality eyewear like Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens.
According to the Pew Research Center, approximately one-in-five Americans now regularly wear a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Our ability and desire to quantify our lives seem to increase with each technological advance.
Before the relatively recent advent of wearable trackers, we had only our bodies to tell us how we were feeling on any given day. While we may not have known our heart rate variability, we could probably tell when we were under stress. Runners didn’t know how long they sprinted in their max heart rate zone, but they felt the burn in their lungs and legs and the exhaustion that followed.
Now, however, millions of us have access to this data 24/7 — and it is changing how we see our health. It influences how hard we push at the gym, and tells us how rested we are based on REM cycles and sleep latency. With so much data at our disposal, it can feel like our devices are better equipped than we are to make decisions about our day.
But is this reliance on wearable technologies a good thing?
Healthy Use of Wearables Starts With Intention
The simple answer to that question is “yes, it’s good,” but it requires that you approach these technologies with intention. That process begins with a few questions:
- What do you want this technology and the data it generates to do for you?
- What data makes sense for you to collect?
- How will you use this information?
If you can clearly define your goals, metrics that make sense, and how you’ll use that information to influence your behavior, then you are likely to make this technology work for you.
On the other hand, if you’re collecting as much data as possible, but not making changes based on that information, you may be overwhelming yourself, which will most likely result in so-called analysis paralysis.
It’s important to remember that smart devices are tools that are only useful if they are supporting you in achieving your goals.
Having a Healthy Relationship with Your Technology
Once you have established that your wearables are serving a positive purpose, you then need to ensure that they become your partner, rather than your boss. Establishing the proper relationship between you and your technology is all-important.
To check yourself, your wearables should help guide and support you, but ultimately allow you to make your own informed decisions.
Consider the following best practices to support a healthy relationship with your technology:
- Check-in with yourself first. Before opening the app or flicking your wrist, take a moment to pause and check-in with yourself and ask how you’re feeling. Then use your wearable to corroborate how you’re feeling, rather than dictate it.
- Take regular breaks from technology. Consider spending one day each week or one weekend each month without tracking your data. Do you change how you interact with the world around you without it?
- Own the decision. Let your tracker support your decisions, but don’t let your tracker make them for you!
Additionally, watch out for some common red-flags that may signal a longer break would be beneficial:
- Do you find your stress rising, knowing you won’t be able to wear your tracker to an event?
- Do you find yourself pushing past your own body signals based on data from your tracker?
If you find yourself answering yes to either of these questions, it may mean that your relationship with your technology may not be supporting your objectives right now.
A Positive, Wearable Future
As technology continues to advance, it’s likely that the use of wearables will become nearly ubiquitous. This increased use is an exciting prospect and may very well support the medical field, productivity at work, and our ability to optimize our lives. But if we are not careful, it may also become a catch-22 that works against us as much as it works for us!
To avoid that fate, you need to decide how to put boundaries in place to keep your relationship with technology healthy and supportive, rather than all-consuming and, ultimately, detrimental to you. There is no perfect way to interact with wearable technology, but you can be mindful about how you’re using it to enhance your day and support your highest purpose.