The Moodmetric measurement only compares to yourself

The Moodmetric measurement only compares to yourself

You are an individual. So is your physiology. You might not be a mainstreamer when looking at your physiology or psychological features. This is why the Moodmetric measurement has been developed so that the measurement only compares to yourself.

Statistics refers to a range of techniques and procedures for making decisions based on data. They are important for instance when making predictions on public health. When talking about individual load and recovery, statistics might not lead to right conclusions. The Moodmetric measurement is not based on statistical data, only the reactions of your body count.

Reference data does not always give the answers

Reference data means statistics that is compiled over a large population and that is used to analyse a single value. Measurement result of one person is just a number. Its frequency and quality is evaluated based on how many matching values are found in the reference data. For instance, a man 165 cm tall might be considered short or tall depending whether he is compared against Norwegian or Korean men.

Height and weight are simple units, still also there can easily be interpretation errors. E.g. a body builder might be incorrectly classified as over-weight when just looking at the number on the weight scale.

Applying reference data has even bigger challenges when measuring a larger and less tangible matter. When studying load and recovery of an individual, might generalizations fit a person poorly. For instance, individual limits for heart rate can’t be determined just based on age. Someone might recover after hard training by jogging. For someone else this does not work, but recovery happens by listening to music. A person is not an average.

The Moodmetric measurement compares your result to your own limit values

The Moodmetric measurement result is not compared to reference data. This means that you are not asked for your age, gender or exercising habits and to use those to choose a suitable reference group. Your data is not compared to any value X that is assumed to be a reasonable average for you.

The Moodmetric measurement is built up differently. At first the measurement looks for the maximum and minimum reaction of the person and sets these as limit values. After this, the measured values are continuously compared to these limits.

High levels compared to own normal signify mental load, low levels recovery. The Moodmetric data tells about the balance between load and recovery just for you, and the measurement only compares to yourself.

The Moodmetric measurement data is completely individual and thus very motivating. It helps in making better decisions for your own well-being instead of comparing yourself to others.

Read more about the Moodmetric measurement accuracy and scientific background.

PART 4: Measuring stress with the Moodmetric ring and understanding the data

The Moodmetric real-time curve and the Moodmetric level

The Moodmetric smart ring measures stress  in real time. It is a user-friendly way to capture electrodermal activity (EDA), which tells about the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

This series of articles is about stress and the ways to measure it. Parts 1 and 2 describe the fight or flight reaction and how the body reacts to chronic stress. Methods for long-term monitoring are presented in part 3. In this article we explain the Moodmetric measurement and how to interpret the data.

How is the Moodmetric ring measurement done?

The Moodmetric smart ring measures stress as a physiological phenomenon. This is done by interpreting electrodermal activity that tells about the sympathetic nervous system activation.

Increased sympathetic nervous system activation makes sweat glands work harder. This can be seen in greater conductance of the skin.

Conductance measurement requires two electrodes of conductive material. The band of the Moodmetric ring works as a set of electrodes. It consists of two silver coated steel rings and an insulator band in between them. 

How the Moodmetric ring works

To achieve a good and steady reading, the electrodes need be in contact with an area of the skin where the eccrine sweat gland density is high. This density can vary from 400/cm2 on the palm of the hand to about 80/cm2 on the upper arm.

Accurate skin conductance measurement can be done from the palm side of hand. A finger ring has an optimal position from the accuracy point of view and the Moodmetric ring is a ring for this reason. The actual point of measurement is on the inside of the finger and at best the signal is completely unbroken.

The ring measures continuously and stores the data inside the ‘stone’. The mobile app does not need to be turned on or open, nor the phone near the ring. When the app is activated and the calendar icon chosen, the ring sends the data to the app via a bluetooth connection. The measuring and data storing to the ring continue immediately. The real-time signal – in other words, the ongoing measuring in process – can be observed at any time on the app.

Research by the Finnish Institute of Occupational health (2015)  shows that the signal of the Moodmetric ring is comparable to that of a laboratory device. The ring is suitable for field studies too.

The Moodmetric signal is real time

The Moodmetric signal is the violet curve on the mobile app that can be observed in real time. It is the raw measurement signal, autoscaled in order to have the whole amplitude visible even during strong reactions.

The Moodmetric ring real time curve

The curve enables the analysis of single reactions. Even a thought – excitement, idea, awe – can cause a peak and is registered with only a 1-2 second physiological delay.

Interpreting the raw signal requires expertise in the measurement method and understanding of the possible sources of error.

The Moodmetric stress measurement data

The raw signal for electrodermal activity (EDA) is difficult to interpret. Strong reactions can easily be spotted on the curve, but mathematical methods are needed to gain further insight.

The Moodmetric level has been developed to provide accurate EDA measurement data that is easy to interpret. The algorithms count an index from 1 to 100 so that 1 is the lowest the person can reach. This is possible, for example, in deep sleep. 100 is the maximum level of arousal, strongest possible reaction. Since we are all individuals, the Moodmetric measurement method is designed to find the minimum and maximum levels of each person within the first 12 hours of taking the ring into use. This is called the calibration period. The ring should be recalibrated when handing it over to another user.

The Moodmetric real time viewThe MM level on the app, both the numeric value and the curve being drawn, show the person’s ongoing activity and level of excitement for the past few minutes. The MM level does not indicate single reactions, but changes fast if the arousal level of the person increases or decreases rapidly. Increasing is first visible in the growing amplitude and the raising trend of the Moodmetric curve, then in the higher numeric value for the MM level.

It is easy to get to 100. The challenge lies in working out the ways in which to get the MM level as low as possible.

When calculating the MM level, the algorithms minimize the effect of finger movement and skin moisture. The MM level is comparable between users. If two persons are placed in the same environment and situation, it is possible to observe which one is calmer.

There is no momentary optimal value

It is normal for the Moodmetric level to fluctuate between 1 and 100 during the day. No momentary value is good or bad.

It is equally important to acknowledge that the Moodmetric measurement does not tell whether a reaction is positive or negative. The Moodmetric ring is not a detector of emotions as such.

The fluctuation of stress levels is different for everyone

There are people who react fast and strong, while others respond more calmly. For instance, creative people are often very susceptible to stimuli, which can translate into high and fluctuating MM levels. In contrast, a person doing work that requires much concentration over long periods of time might have low MM levels throughout the working day.

The levels can be high due to excitement and energy, or low due to intense concentration. All this is positive. The levels might also be high due to pressure and lack of control at work. Low figures in turn can tell of boredom or even depression. For an accurate assessment, the measurement data always needs to be complemented with the ring wearer´s own perception of the situation. Only the person in question knows whether a set 100 tells about excitement or irritation.

A successful team is heterogeneous also by the way they react

On average, it is productive at work to have people of different temperaments. Depending on the work, of course, a team consisting only of individuals with either a very mild or a very strong natural way of reacting is probably not as productive as a more heterogeneous team.

The Moodmetric stress measurement data increases our understanding of the different ways in which people react to various situations. This is important from the point of view of health and well-being; to challenge and grow, we should look within and learn from our experiences rather than compare ourselves to others.

The 24-hour MM average level is what it’s all about

The Moodmetric smart ring measures the reactions of the sympathetic nervous system on a scale of 1 to 100. When the 24-hour average value is around 50, there is enough recovery in correlation to the load.

Fluctuation of the MM levels during the day can vary much between different individuals. High daily figures are no cause for worry if the person feels energetic enough and has a restful night: It is the 24-hour MM average level that counts. The same goes for someone whose MM levels don’t peak during the day.

The point is demonstrated in the graphs below: Two persons have exactly the same 24-hour MM average level of 46, which signifies a good balance between rest and activity, but their autonomous nervous systems are activated in different ways and by different stimuli during night and day.

Measuring stress with the Moodmetric ring and understanding the data

The more you use the ring, the more information you gather to help you adjust your behavior. It is therefore recommended that the ring is worn also during nighttime.

Feedback from users of the Moodmetric ring indicate that the MM level correlates with a user’s own perception of their situation. If the 24-hour average is around 50, the energy levels are normal. Values over 50 for long periods of time go hand in hand with the feeling of being overloaded; cracks in one’s well-being begin to show. Very low daily figures, on the other hand, might be a sign of depression.

The Moodmetric measurement helps the user to gain balance between load and recovery. The sources of stress and ways to recover differ from person to person. For this reason, the measurement data should never be examined in isolation, but further self-assessment by the individual is required. The Moodmetric ring and app are tools for a person seeking more balance in their life.

The complete set of 5 articles explains the Moodmetric measurement, science behind and the applications:

  1. Part 1: Fight or flight response
  2. Part 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger
  3. Part 3: Tools for long term and continuous stress measurement
  4. Part 4: The Moodmetric ring stress measurement and understanding the data
  5. Part 5: The Moodmetric measurement in preventive occupational health 

Moodmetric data analytics tool

The Moodmetric data analytics tool is created to support research and development projects related to EDA (electrodermal activity) measurements.

The tool enables researchers and developers to quickly process and visualize large Moodmetric data sets in uniform manner. It generates both group and individual level reports based on input data from wearable devices. The tool is released as open source for anyone to benefit of the Moodmetric measurement data in various use cases.

Download the Moodmetric data visualization tool instruction here.

For more information, contact
Jari Jussila
[email protected]
+358 40 717 8345

High stress levels – then what?

In my previous blog post I promised to write in detail how I dealt with my chronic stress last year. As I told, the turning point was the summer holiday when I started experiencing difficulties in falling asleep.

 

Sleep is the most important part of recovery. I did know that, but one cannot really force herself to sleep and taking sleeping pills was not an option for me. Therefore, I started tackling the stress from another direction.

The very first thing I did was downloading Headspace on my phone. Headspace is an  application using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques to train the mind for a healthier, happier, and more enjoyable life. I had tried Headspace before and was already convinced about its effectiveness. Having also tried other guided mindfulness applications I noticed that the voice matters to me! Andy Puddicombe has a voice that is calming by nature 🙂 Mindfulness is our basic human ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings, and not being too reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. According to my Moodmetric levels, mindfulness is low numbers indicating inactive sympathetic nervous system.

However, after trying mindfulness a few times at home during the weekends, I realized it was of no use. It was really difficult to find a nice and quiet place for a meditation exercise. Normally my Moodmetric numbers go down steadily during meditation exercises, but as constantly hearing kids running and screaming upstairs, I could not concentrate. By accident (I got upset for not being able to concentrate and marched out for a walk), I found out that going out for a walk lowered my stress levels more effectively than meditating at home. I continued mindfulness exercises on work days.

Then I gave up on kettlebell exercises for a few months and started going for walks instead. Before, putting my trainers on just to go for a walk, was never really an option. I had this thought that going ‘just’ for a walk was a waste of (sports) time. It started to become clear for me that exercising is a good way to prevent stress, but if you are already overloaded, strenuous exercise only adds up to high stress levels.

Working less during the evenings was an obvious move of course. However, not always being able to refrain from work, I started studying how different kind of work tasks affected my stress levels. Quite soon I noticed that writing e-mails raised my stress levels easily. On the other hand, design or creative work without time pressure kept my stress levels down. As I talked about this with our CEO she had experienced the opposite – going through e-mail was less stressful for her than any kind of creative work. This is a good reminder of how we are all individuals and should find out ourselves what are the causes of stress and sources of recovery.

Also, working remotely from home helped me to keep stress levels moderate (the kids being at daycare, of course). This is probably explained by the fact that I could solely concentrate on my work without unexpected social interruptions.  

In addition, I adjusted my diet a bit. From my previous experience I had noticed that cutting down carbs and sugar kept me steadily energetic. I also started taking vitamin and mineral supplements: D3, B12, magnesium citrate and zinc to fight the stress and help the immune system.  

In October, I started seeing clear results with my stress levels. The change had happened in my mind as well – the future seemed brighter again, less worrying thoughts and more feelings of accomplishment. I was able to concentrate better, which had a clear correlation with getting more work done. All this change in my thoughts even though nothing else had changed in my surroundings. Also no difficulties in falling asleep anymore.  

Mindfulness was probably the most effective action on my way to a less-stress life. Even though I wasn’t doing the exercises for more than two or three times a week, I felt that it helped me the most. According to studies, it takes 8 weeks to get results. In that sense, I would recommend trying mindfulness even if one can not commit to the exercises every day.

One might wonder why the actions I took seem so systematic and straightforward. Is managing stress really that simple? Yes and no.  

Knowledge work productivity and wellbeing have been my area of interest for a long time. I have acquired decent theoretical knowledge of the substance through my work as a researcher, so in that sense I was well aware how to tackle chronic stress as a knowledge worker. In general, the internet is loaded with tips and guidance towards stress free life.

However, effective stress management requires lifestyle and behavioral changes. It is easy to try something for a few times, but the hard part is adopting a lasting routine. I get my motivation to take action by looking at my stress levels on the Moodmetric app.  

The idea behind Moodmetric is that everyone should find out what are their individual sources of stress and recovery. What works for me, might not work for you. The Moodmetric ring is an excellent tool to find that out.

Moodmetric brings stress measurement to Smart Office

 

The Moodmetric ring collects stress and recovery information in smart spaces in a pilot project starting in February 2017. The real time stress data will be combined to a Smart Office concept by Polku Innovations.

The outcome will be a brand new service where there will be a measurable link between wellbeing of the employees and the space they are working in. The data collected by the Moodmetric smart ring will be combined to a platform by Polku Innovations. This gives the companies unique opportunities to understand how the environment affects the employees and their work.

Polku Innovations develops and offers their customers measurement and data analytics services to a smart office. Their concept uses sensors to collects information such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, light intensity, noise and utilization rate of the space. Data is used to facilitate the daily work and enhance wellbeing.

 

How to interpret the Moodmetric data

The Moodmetric level

The Moodmetric app has been developed to be extremely simple. There is a minimum amount of numbers and graphs to observe. The important results become clear when you first open the app.

The main item in the Moodmetric measurement is the Moodmetric level. This is an index derived from the electrodermal activity raw signal.

Indexing the raw measurement has many advantages: it is easy to understand, it is comparable among different users and it is immediately clear how it reflects the wearer´s reaction.

The MM level / the Moodmetric index ranges from 0–100. High numbers indicate stress, excitement or other hightened state or alertness. Low numbers indicate a calm mind. The measurement or the index do not tell if the state is positive or negative. From the physiology point of view, a high number means that the user´s sympathetic nervous system is active. The system is stressed even if the cause would be positive, e.g. if you are very enthusiastic about something. The learning is that One also needs to recover from excitement!

The MM level describes current moment and a few minutes back, and updates continuously. You can follow the changes real-time – what happens when you think of something stressful? A phone call you need to take, something you have forgotten? What happens when you just stare out of the window, and try not to think of anything?

The Moodmetric live curve / The Scope

The Scope is the raw signal of the EDA measurement. Each jump upwards is a reaction of the sympathetic nervous system. The physiological delay is about 1.5 seconds, which means that after a reaction, e.g. getting startled, a jump upwards comes with a small delay.

The Scope is especially important for users that follow closely single reactions. One example would be a UX (user experience) developer, how wants to see how test user reacts with the new updates to e.g. a mobile app.

Real-time data and stored data

The above describes the live functions, where the wearer can follow the stress and recovery levels continuously.

There is no need to keep the smartphone/pad open or near the ring, when real-time view is not needed. The ring stores measurement results for up to 270 hours, but we recommend to download data out a few times a day, to see that the ring contact to the finger is good and results are complete.

The downloading happens simply by pressing the Calendar icon.

All stored information appear as a diagram presentation on a 12 hour clock face view.

The diagram uses the MM level / the Moodmetric index to draw the presentation.

The higher the stress level, the closer to the edge of the circle the figure reaches. The color also indicates the intensity ranging from calm yellow to green, purple and finally red.

Above 75 the color is purple or red and a calm mind, numbers below 30 are indicated as beige.

You can follow fluctuating stress levels throughout the day on the clock face that begins from 6am. By swiping back and forth, you can see the following night, next day and so on. Night is indicated with a moon sign in the middle.

Daily average and step counting

Daily MM is the average Moodmetric number for a particular day. It gives you the possibility to follow the stress and recovery trends, if you use the ring regularly. This number takes into account both the day and night measurement.

Total time tells how long you have used the ring on a given day.

The Moodmetric ring works as a step counter. Steps taken on a particular day is indicated in thousand steps (k).

What do the numbers tell?

Any Moodmetric level, or color code describing it, does not mean good or bad. Important is the total daily load and the amount of recovery. The daily diagram gives a quick answer at one glance: if it is mainly red or purple, the stress levels seem to be high for long periods in a row. There should be some green and beige every day to indicate recovery.

Stress can be high also on free time. Many parents of small children feel that their load is higher at home than at work. If a person feels high stress the whole waken up time, it would be good to think where to reserve time for recovery.

You will need to look at the Moodmetric figures against your own life

Same kind of average stress levels might mean different things for different people. You will need to reflect your life and think of these questions:

  • How much work load do I have? Is the work load too big to manage?
  • Is my free time or time at home stressful? Why?
  • How do I sleep? Do I feel refreshed in the morning?
  • Are there big disturbances in my life? Are we moving house? Is some of my closed ones ill? Do my children wake my me up at nights?

If there are big things that are constantly in your mind, your stress levels are probably higher than normal. You can do many things to recover, but you need to keep in mind not to require too much of yourself. If for any reason you can not e.g. sleep as much as you wish, you need to learn to take some breaks during the day. Mindfulness and other meditative exercises might be a good way to train your mind to react less to stressful situations.
We are happy to help you further to understand your figures and how they relate to you life. Please do contact us at [email protected] !

If you have not yet tried the Moodmetric measurement, check our web shop  to know more.

Read also: How chronic stress almost caught me

How chronic stress almost caught me

I have used Moodmetric ring on a regular basis for almost two years now.

When I first got to know Moodmetric, my life was not terribly hectic, I did not feel to be particularly stressed. I did not check my stress levels from the Moodmetric app continuously, as there was not much change – figures were quite low, nothing to be alarmed of.

Until last January.

It was already during Christmas break, when I started to notice the first signs. The feeling of hopelessness and a hint of bitterness had started slowly fester inside me. Two and a half years of burdening family life with extreme efficiency had resulted in complete loss of energy. Our family size had undergone significant change few years back, as the number of our kids went from one to three at once. Without a proper safety net, my husband and I had worked like machines to take care of our family. After 2,5 yrs. we were both exhausted and the only thing keeping us sane was being able to go to work to our paid jobs. Yes, it is a bit twisted, that you go to work to recover from family life.

At work my colleagues would have their daily laughs, because I started forgetting things. I would even go to a meeting and be very impressed by a work very nicely done just to hear that I had been part of it. Memory problems showed up.

By the end of January I noticed that I couldn’t pull through my regular kettlebell exercises anymore let alone improving the performance. I was just tired. I wanted to exercise, but I was too tired to get to it.

Then I got my first flu. And a second flu. And a third flu. Soon I noticed that I was the only one in our family getting sick all the time. (By the end of July I had been ill almost ten times.) My immune system had failed me.  

In March I decided to take a personal risk as I threw in my lot with the Moodmetric team. I became a co-owner in the company. Becoming an entrepreneur was something I had always dreamt of, but I had little doubts about the timing. It was a great move for me, but I knew that the positive stress – excitement – could be a challenging combination with the cumulated stress from the family circus. Would I be able to unwind from all the positive stress ahead me?

In April it became obvious to me that my overall stress levels were higher than usual. Wearing the Moodmetric ring, I had data to back this up – I could witness the change in figures from the app. I was alerted, but not afraid, because I am a very good sleeper and felt that I got the recovery I need. In overall I was optimistic about the future.

The spring 2016 and early summer were hectic and exciting. We were rewriting the company vision and strategy, and talking to loads of people with to get feedback. What we heard was so supporting that at times I couldn’t restrain myself from working unreasonable hours. On the other hand, I had started to question my work performance and felt like I was not working enough. I knew I had gone into overdrive a big time, but was hoping that I could make it to my summer vacation.

When July and summer vacation started, I breathed freely again – I had made it to the safety zone and now I could unwind and recover!

Only, that feeling lasted for a short moment, because sleep disorders kicked in. I started having problems with falling asleep and my heart would race for anxiety. Bedtime became one of my least favorite time of the day, because I was afraid I couldn’t fall asleep.

Needless to say, summer vacation came in too late. I had neglected my recovery and crossed the line that I didn’t wish to. I am well aware that one shouldn’t play with sleep disorders. My Moodmetric daily diagrams were screaming red. That is when I decided to start adding more unwinding moments to my everyday life and not just wait for the next vacation. I did not want to welcome chronic stress into my life.

In short, the lifestyle and behavior changes I adopted are mindfulness exercises, less heavy exercise and replacing with long walks, adding micronutrients, prioritizing sleep, etc. I will write down how I tackled chronic stress in very much detail in my next blog, due out soon!

Part 2 can now be read here

Picture: Pixabay

Electrodermal activity measured by the Moodmetric ring

Electrodermal activity

With any sympathetic nervous system activation, skin reacts and becomes a better conductor of electricity. This can result from emotional, cognitive or other psychological origin. The phenomenon is known as electrodermal activity (EDA) and it is widely adopted in psychological research (1). Other commonly used terms for this phenomenon are skin conductance response and galvanic skin response.

EDA is generated by the activity of the sweat glands.  Moodmetric measures the palmar skin on your finger. The palmar skin is the recommended EDA measurement location, since it has the highest eccrine sweat gland density (2). You can measure EDA elsewhere as well but the reliability is not as high or as easily achieved.

The unconscious actions of the human body are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. It consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic part. The parasympathetic part controls the body’s rest-and-digest functions and the sympathetic part controls the fight-or-flight reactions. By examining electrodermal activity we can understand the sympathetic nervous system reactions.

The sweat glands are exclusively innervated by the sympathetic nervous system. This makes EDA an ideal measure for sympathetic activation (2). Electrodermal activity correlates to cognitive and emotional arousal, and high responses are caused by e.g. stress, enthusiasm, anxiety, joy, anger (1, 3).

Mobile EDA devices have been used by scientists for some time (2, 4). The Moodmetric ring is an unobtrusive option to follow EDA responses real-time and in long term.

Signal accuracy

The signal accuracy has been proven in a study of 24 people by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health by J. Torniainen et al.. The accuracy against a laboratory grade reference was found to be 83 %. They conclude:

“Clearly the ring sensor can be used to measure a valid EDA signal as indicated by the similarity of both event-related responses and the calculated features. The accuracy of the Moodmetric EDA Ring is adequate for psychological and physiological research when weighted against the advantage of conducting ecologically valid experiments outside laboratory conditions.”

The results were accepted for publication in the 2015 conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC 2015, August 25-29).

Link to the article

The Moodmetric measurement accuracy has also been studied at the University of Tampere, Finland in 2014. The correlation with the reference equipment Nexus-10-MK II was good. Comparison details in charts below.

With skin conductance level (SCL) we refer here to raw measured skin conductance without any filtering. The figures below show the comparison of the two devices. 

Further reading in an article by Jari Torniainen and Benjamin Cowley, published in August 2016:

A short review and primer on electrodermal activity in human computer interaction applications

References

1 Mendes, W.B. (2009). Assessing the autonomic nervous system. In: Harmon-Jones   E. ja Beer J.S. Methods in social neuroscience. New York: Guilford Press. p. 118-147.

2 Setz C., Arnrich B., Schumm J. and La R. (2010) Discriminating Stress From Cognitive Load Using a Wearable EDA Device. IEEE Trans. Inf. Technol. Biomed. 14(2). p. 410-417.

3 Nikula R. (1991) Psychological correlates of nonspecific skin conductance responses. Psychophysiology. 28(1). p.86-90.

4 Poh M.Z, Swenson N.C. and Picard R.W. (2010) A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-Term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity. IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 57(4). p. 1243-1252.