Mindfulness Pills - Nancy Dougherty


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  • Meaning in QS, beyond just data; and going from passive data gathering to actually trying to hack my behaviors, and make a system to not just record but also intervene.
  • So I took a completely different route- I took some placebo pills, and with my sharpie I made them into focus, energy, calmness, and happiness pills- pills that I could take when I felt a negative emotion creeping up that I wanted to combat. Whenever I felt one of the negative emotion, I would take the corresponding antidote pill
  • This idea isn’t totally crazy- it’s inspired by the placebo effect. Which is a crazy crazy thing- it means that if you take a sugar pill that you think will help you, it usually will help you. If you put in a pacemaker and never turn it on, I will STILL WORK (tough for pharma to beat)
  • And even crazier- an IBS study found that when they gave patients a placebo- and TOLD them it was a placebo and not real medication- it was still effective in relieving symptoms! So clearly something is going on here with the medical ritual of pill ingestion.
  • So I targeted 4 negative emotions that I wanted to both track and see if I could combat. I hoped that I could use this system to not only make myself mindful of and track negative emotions, but that the ingestion ritual would give me the feeling of an emotional “power up” to combat these feelings (placebo effect = incentive to keep tracking)
  • But this is QS- so there as some cook tech involved. So each pill had a tiny chip on it that let it talk to my phone,signal when it was ingested, and turning it into a completely automated mood tracking system.
  • The companion piece is a patch that I wore- like a bandaid- that picked up the signals from the pill, as well as transmitted heart rate, motion, and temperature data to my phone.
  • So what I ended up with was a system that would not only capture each negative mood I experienced, but also the complete biometric environment; so I could see how my physical life affected my emotional life and vice versa. (maybe combine into previous slide?)
  • So the crazy thing was that using this placebo system made emotion tracking a perk, instead of a chore, and actively helped me not only track but also regulate my emotions.
  • Even though I knew that I was taking a placebo, I got some sort of power out of them- just having them gave me the mindset shift of “I am in control of my emotions, there is something that I can do about them”
  • After I took one of my antidotes, I felt like a had a 10 minute window to “indulge” in my negative emotions before the pill hit the bloodstream helped me fight it off. I could also clearly see the effects of willpower pills on the intensity of my exercise by looking at my heart rate.
  • Most interestingly, though, was that having these placebos gave me constant incentive to be very mindful of how I was feeling, to the point that I would catch the beginning of negativity very on, and take pre-emptive placebo action.
  • By doing this, I avoided having my negative emotions compound on themselves or spiral out of control- in fact, throughout the experiment, I only used the focus and willpower pills that caught early stage stressors, and in doing so avoided spiraling into more negative emotions like anger or depression.
  • Now this type of result is far from unheard of- it’s actually well-established in Bhuddist mindfulness meditation. This sort of meditation is centered around bringing your thoughts to the present, and being aware of your feelings, and is well documented in helping to deal with depression, emotional instability, anxiety, pain, stress, and addiction.
  • So by leveraging the placebo effect, I basically artificially created the benefits of meditation mindfulness- but in an easier, more engaging, more sustainable way. Which is key part of QS (work on this)- an almost gamified, engaging version of mindfulness meditation
  • So even just having this system incentivized mindfulness of my emotions, and the benefits that come with that. But the QS perk here is all the biometric information that goes with it, which I could both use to gather more information and validate what I was experiencing
  • Non-tangibles, meaning in QS
  • And I think there are a lot more applications we can leverage the subtle psychology of ingestions and mindfulness in. Pain or energy level tracking, symptom management, diet and weight loss, focus and productivity are all areas that systems like this could be tailored to, to provide not only regulation from mindfulness of certain variables, but valuable information from the technology.
  • And of course, building applications on top of the data gathered by this system can make the outcomes even more effective- the system could take advantage of your social network, or employ gamification techniques to help you out when you don’t quite have the motivation to help yourself.
  • I have a blog up here with some information on the experiments; and I always love to talk more about the psychology and technology behind this, and any ideas you would have for a system like this.
  • Mindfulness Pills - Nancy Dougherty

    1. 1. Nancy Dougherty @nancyhdMindfulness Pills
    2. 2. • Focus for a distracted, unproductive state• Will Power/Energy for intimidation/lethargy• Calm for stress or anger• Happy for sadness
    3. 3. • Focus for a distracted, unproductive state• Will Power/Energy for facing a daunting task• Calm for stress or anger• Happy for sadness
    4. 4. Saturday 7/9 Sunday 7/10 Monday 7/11 Tuesday 7/12 Wednesday 7/13
    5. 5. • Use pills and their personal meaning asYour Power Up! emotional “Power Ups”
    6. 6. Potential to extend
    7. 7. theengineeress.com/ mindfulness Nancy Dougherty ndougherty@proteusbiomed.com @nancyhd