Everyone is depressed (almost)! The prescription rate of antidepressants in Sweden are rapidly increasing and in 2014 almost 9% of the population were on some kind of mood stabilizing treatment. At the same time we have an increasing flora of advices regarding how to stay off the meds and handle your mood with lifestyle changes, including meditation, exercise, food and self help books. But, and this is a really big but, the understanding of why we are feeling low is still almost nonexistent on an individual basis. If you go to the doctor, you are not very likely to get a personalized recommendation on how to improve your mood, but rather some generic advice, or – so says the statistics – a medication that we aren’t really sure how it works. All the current regimes for getting better are on a “one package fits all” level, but My Quantified Mood will be the story about the quest for finding that holy grail: the why.
Why are we feeling so bad but also why are we feeling good. Is it possible to track and analyze enough in and around a person in order to understand the high and lows. This is not about trying to remove lows entirely, but rather to find what makes you tick and what drains you. This is the first blogpost in the series, and here I will take you through a very brief background and the initial thoughts that eventually turned into My Quantified Mood.
The background to My Quantified Mood
The last couple of years a lot of the people I care about have been struggling with more or less serious periods of feeling low. I believe neither me or any of my friends are at the end of any spectrum, but perhaps also not at the middle of the curve. It’s a fact that 9% of the Swedish population are today on a antidepressants in general. It works ok for many, and although I don’t believe these drugs do any acute harm, I’m also very aware that we don’t have the first clue about the long term (side)effects. The debate is ongoing and endless, and as a physician I see all the good effects they have, but also how we hand them out very routinely.
Personally I have been curious to try out new things over the years, including rigid diet and exercise schemes, meditation, regular routines, spirituality, osteopathic treatments and ayurvedic philosophies. To me, a combination of these works very well for a general wellbeing. Many of my friends have been able to move up from deep valleys, and they swear by different things, such as LCHF or meditation, but there doesn’t seem to exist that one thing that works for everyone. It’s not a long shot to assume we are all different, and therefor repsonds to different things.
A little about me
I’m a 35 year old MD and Engineer from Gothenburg, Sweden with a huge interest in music. My first career was within management consulting at McKinsey & Co, and I now divide my time between working as a physician in a surgical clinic and as a business coach in an incubator where I help startups within healthcare. I’ve always had a quite moody inner life, which has resulted in lots of thinking and lots of song writing.
How this is planned to go down
I started to look around for ready-made solutions regarding tracking your mood, and there are literally thousands of tools for not only tracking but also improving it. However, most tools actually address the solution rather than looking to find the root cause; meditation might be what’s needed, but what if you find out that it is really eating gluten that affects you the most? Then no meditation app in the world will give you relief. Also, no tool seems to have a top-down perspective on this, where you could combine enough data from various wearables with your own entries and external data.
Is there a way to connect all these tools in order to make a scientific study with only one subject, to create a methodology for finding the relevant triggers that control your mood? Let’s find out. To my help I have set aside a budget of $1000 for wearables and software, my tutor in medical research Roger Olofsson PhD and in general a network with skilled people.
I will try to make short and crisp entries about the study design, what tools are used and how they eventually are connected. I will also write reviews of the things i try out, and summaries of the science behind it all.
First thing should be to make a big list of things to measure, and then try to design a study around it.