Measuring stress levels in real time motivates to pay attention to mental load every day

There are reports in media daily about work and study-related stress, burnouts and the increase of mental load, especially among knowledge workers. The focus is on what to do when stress has already become chronic. The act of balancing between mental load and recovery is yet to become an everyday task.

There are tools for companies and occupational health to gather objective, real-time data about an individual’s cognitive and emotional stress. They comprise an efficient method for preventing the build-up of stress when applied before the load gets too high.

The tool matters

When the aim is to pay attention to mental load, the Moodmetric measurement provides just the needed data. The Moodmetric smart ring, worn as a normal ring, is a measuring device that gathers accurate information about cognitive and emotional stress, around the clock. The smartphone app shows real-time data. Measuring in real time motivates to pay attention to one’s choices affecting mental well-being every day.

Why is it important that the measuring happens in real time?

We all need feedback. The most effective is instant feedback that makes us see the cause and effect, better realizing the connection between what we did and what was the outcome.

Real-time measurement also catches our attention and encourages us to try out things that might affect the result. For example, how fast does my stress level go down if I breathe deeply for 5 minutes in front of an open window?

Measuring stress levels in real time motivates to pay attention to mental load every day

Let’s say a meeting lasts from 2pm to 3pm. The topic is inspiring, the participants throw in new ideas, decisions are made. A person wearing the Moodmetric ring follows her stress levels during the meeting and sees them fluctuating between 45 and a full 100. Alternatively she gives a glance at the app after the meeting. The numbers show that the stress levels were high. And because the feeling was positive, she concludes that this was a meeting inducing positive stress. She knows that recovery is important also from excitement and takes a moment to relax in a quiet space before the next meeting. The sympathetic nervous system calms down, both the body and mind get a moment of rest.

A long enough period of uninterrupted measuring, roughly two weeks, provides reliable data of the amount of mental load the person is experiencing. It contains a good number of different kinds of days, where one exceptional day does not significantly affect the big picture.

The Moodmetric measurement tells about the amount of mental load

The right metric helps to increase self-understanding and tells where the personal boundaries for high and low stress reside. Objective data, namely a clear number is a decision-making tool and a call for action: “After a day at the office, is it better for me to go jogging, or just for a walk along the scenic route?”

Measuring devices can be used continuously or periodically until the person feels that their control over the issues causing mental load has improved.

The Moodmetric measurement

The Moodmetric smart ring gives real-time information on what increases and what decreases mental load during day and night. It supports the wearer in finding the optimal balance between emotional and cognitive stress versus recovery.

A two-week Moodmetric measurement period is sufficient to provide the user with an understanding of their stress levels. If the levels are normal, the measurement can be repeated in, say, a year. If the levels are very high, it is advised to discuss with a healthcare professional about the data and make your own assessment of the load and its causes, both at and off work.

Go to the Moodmetric Shop

 

Our contact information

Moodmetric will participate the HIMSS conference the 12th-13th June in Helsinki.

Drop in at our booth 6g34 on both days (Wed-Thu) for a live demo and to test the Moodmetric ring for yourself – welcome!

 

 

Is preventing burnout the responsibility of the employer or the employee?

preventing burnout

As a young team leader, it was difficult for me to understand family life. Having no kids, I could spend a lot of my time and energy on work, since my evenings were free of responsibilities. Having no personal experience, I had no idea of the chaos and amount of work awaiting a parent, especially mothers, on return to home after a day at the office.  

Also, luckily enough, not everyone has experienced firsthand the mental mental burden of having to go through a divorce or a family member falling seriously ill. Big life changes always affect your work too and can take away, for a long time, the joy and satisfaction you experience in your work.

Someone in a leading position can, of course, have a family and big challenges in life too; we all know life can be really hard sometimes. This does not mean, however, that all managers understand why burnouts happen. We’re all individuals, we do not react to the same issues in the same way. To enforce the argument, I’m sure everyone can think of someone they know who seemingly navigates through life without appearing to experience significant amount of stress.

What are the consequences of having a boss who never seems to be stressed out?

It can lead to behaviour such as mine as a young leader without kids, not being empathic enough to understand how strongly and wholly stress affects both free time and work.

Whether or not a manager experiences stress themselves, s/he has the duty to actively observe employees to see if the burden is getting too big. If signs appear, the first step is have a discussion with the employee in question.

The Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act No. 738/2002, Section 8, describes the employers’ general duty to exercise care:

“Employers shall continuously monitor the working environment, the state of the working community and the safety of the work practices. Employers shall also monitor the impact of the measures put into practice on safety and health at work.”

But how do you define and measure the issues employees find stressful? Moreover, which of these can be argued to be issues the employer can control?

The employer has control over many things that can cause stress, such as company culture, salary policy or physical environment

The most important issues in this respect are equality, integrity and the sense of fairness. Equality needs to be understood broadly, consisting of gender and salary equality, equal opportunities for career advancement and raises, and fair division of tasks and responsibilities.

It is also the duty of the employer to ensure that there is a fair balance between a job description, the skills and competences of an employee, and the objectives of the employer.

Without a doubt, providing a safe and suitable physical environment for the job required is the responsibility of the employer. There are many issues to consider, but let me raise one: In the open office plans of today, is enough consideration taken to secure an environment devoid of disruption and noise for work requiring concentration?

Company culture, ways of working and organizational structure are defined and controlled by the employer, having a big impact on the well-being of an employee.

It is also the employer’s responsibility to continuously monitor the work atmosphere among the employees.

Not all factors related to well-being can be expressed as clearly set rules: The boss just needs to stay alert. Minea Ahlroth, who has studied harassment and discrimination at work, writes:

“A manager has the duty to mingle with the employees, taking the pulse of the organization   and making note of the different emerging signals.” (Ahlroth et. al. 2015, 90)

What if the employer does things by the book? All structures, salary policy, positions and ways of working are fair. The atmosphere is good, for the most part the staff seems to like both their work and the workplace. The employer can not detect shortcomings.

Being responsible for your own well-being is not a choice, it is a must

An employer has a huge responsibility for their staff. They are required to create a workplace that promotes equality and enables employees to achieve a successful work-life balance. A forward-looking employer supports an individual in many other ways too.

In turn, the employees need to tell when things are not going well.

prevent burnout

Everyone able to take part in working life has the responsibility to take care of themselves and their own well-being.

Why? Because an employer cannot know everything that is going on in one’s life. No matter how good the employer, they cannot optimize the work conditions for everyone, let alone their life outside of work. Everyone’s life has shorter or longer periods when one’s mental load is bigger than the opportunities for recovery.

How do we tackle stress at Moodmetric

At Moodmetric the mental well-being is the responsibility of both the employer and employee. But what are the concrete actions?

Naturally the method of measuring stress levels is something available for everyone. This is not obligatory, but it can be done all the time or when the person so desires. Some of us have been wearing the Moodmetric ring continuously for over 4 years now.

The greatest value from the Moodmetric measurement can be derived when the mental load is high. When the stress levels creep up, the person is like a crab in a kettle set to boil – a person does not recognize the heat build up over time.

What can the employee do?

When the Moodmetric levels get higher than recommended, the first thing an employer would need to do is to take action to lower the levels. What are these actions?

We are all individuals, which means that we need to find our own individual ways to lower our stress levels. This is where the Moodmetric real-time measurement proves to be a helpful tool: An individual learns the things which raise and lower their stress levels. Employing some commonly known ways to alleviate stress, such as getting more sleep and enjoying open air activities and nature is a good way to start one’s journey of self-discovery.

And what is the role of the employer?

What are the responsibilities of an employer to support an individual’s search for balance? The best results can be achieved by the employer supporting the individual in the measures s/he has chosen. If there is a need for some days off or shorter workdays or weeks, there should be a way to try and find an optimum solution for all. Personalized options are the key: Even longer breaks during workdays can have a significant effect on productivity.

The goal is common

The employer and employee should work together to prevent chronic stress and often long absences due to burnout. A single burnout is a grave symptom and requires immediate actions in the workplace. The reputation of a company can be severely impacted by its employees going public about their stress and lack of well-being.

Both employees and companies have the common goal of preserving health, attaining a positive mindset and longevity of life. Employees with a healthy work-life balance help companies and organizations to prosper. A happy and healthy employee spreads positive attitude around him or her. In the end, it is, for example, our families who emerge as the ultimate beneficiaries if our well-being at work is taken care of.

Ask us about the Moodmetric-measurement

Moodmetric smart ring – Finnish know-how at its best

The Moodmetric smart ring is a prime example of Finnish innovation in the area of health technology. Vigofere Oy was set up as a company five years ago to commercialize the invention of Henry Rimminen, D.Sc., who had developed a smart ring which measures electrodermal activity (EDA). The ability to measure, outside of test laboratory conditions, the electricity that your body emits was revolutionary and 2013 saw the birth of the first prototype for further development.

Moodmetric smart ring black and turquoise
The Mooodmetric smart ring is a Finnish health tech innovation
How It All Begun

As a researcher at Aalto University, Henry Rimminen had worked on various sensors and methods for measuring physiological activity. Fitness trackers were a growing trend and devices based on measuring heart rate had been available for consumers for some time already.

Measuring electrodermal activity had been in research use for over a hundred years, but there were no practical applications of the measurement method on the market for consumers. It was this challenge that Henry Rimminen aimed to solve.

Inventor of the Moodmetric smart ring D.Sc. Henry Rimminen
Inventor of the Moodmetric smart ring D.Sc. Henry Rimminen

Our bodies react to external stimuli, both psychological and physical. This triggers off the sympathetic nervous system, the activity of which can be measured by how the eccrine (very tiny) sweat glands respond. These glands are dense on the palm of our hands, making them the optimum location to place the measuring sensor on.

EDA, or skin conductance, is a phenomenon which was discovered by two researchers, Charles Vigoroux and Richard Féré in the late 19th century. The name of the company, Vigofere Oy, was derived from the names of these two trailblazers.

The Challenges

In laboratory conditions EDA is measured by placing electrodes on the skin, usually on the tip of two fingers. For an accurate reading, no movement is allowed.

To develop a consumer product, Henry Rimminen had to overcome several challenges:
• Downsizing the measuring device from the size of a block of cheese to as small as possible.
• Instead of restricting the use of two fingers, the device had to be effortless to wear in everyday life.
• The results should not be affected by physical movement.
• Data transfer should be wireless.

Early prototypes of the Moodmetric smart ring
Early prototypes

In the autumn of 2015 the first commercial version of the Moodmetric smart ring was launched. It was the result of many iterative rounds of research and development. Once the electronics and measuring capability were deemed robust enough, designer Vesa Nilsson provided the ring its Scandinavian look and feel. Vesa Nilsson is famous for transformational and clean design. For further information, see Oz Jewel.

Data Management

One of the key principles Henry Rimminen followed right from the start was ease of use: It was imperative that the data the ring collects could be effortlessly retrieved, read and managed. Developing an application running on a smart phone was the next logical step.

The mobile application had to incorporate two basic elements:
• The index with the numeric values 1-100 is calculated from the raw data and show the alertness level of the person wearing the ring. High numeric figures signify stress or excitement, low figures a sense of calm.
• A round diagram demonstrates the fluctuation of the stress levels during 12-hour intervals. The use of colour make it easy to visualize, in one glance, the different levels of alertness, sliding from red for high levels on the outer peripheral of the diagram to the light greens of low stress levels on the inner circle of the diagram. For further information on the Moodmetric index and data interpretation, see here.

Vigofere Oy/Moodmetric today

Vigofere Oy has been in business for over five years and has a fully Finnish ownership. R&D is all done in Finland, as is the assembly and packing of the product too.

Moodmetric serves consumers, researchers, companies and health professionals globally.

The Moodmetric smart ring can be purchased from the Moodmetric webshop and the mobile application can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.

For companies and health professionals Moodmetric provides a measuring service for preventive stress management. Research institutes have been the first to utilize the technology and the ring in their work. For further information see our research page.

Stress is a positive thing, when it is well balanced. Our mission at Moodmetric is to help each and everyone to find their individual and optimum way to manage stress in all situations. Our goal is to significantly reduce the negative effects of chronic stress on individual, organizational and societal levels.
We at Moodmetric believe that the world can be saved from a state of chronic stress with Finnish health technology.

Buy the Moodmetric smart ring

Ask more about Moodmetric services for companies and occupational health: [email protected] / +358 44 309 6997

A high school wellbeing project aimed at better self awareness with a physiological stress measurement

In Lempäälä high school, Finland, a large wellbeing project has been initiated. It aims to give the students practical tools to manage both their physical and mental wellbeing better. The pilot group in the fall 2018 had the possibility for a 2 week Moodmetric measurement. Surprisingly high stress levels were measured both with students and teachers.

Society and the working life expectations are transforming. The world we and our kids live in is changing every day and this all requires constant adaptation. According to Psychology Today, the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s.

Practical approach to better wellbeing of students

The teachers in Lempäälä high school, Finland, have understood that things cannot be done as in the past.  Finnish core curriculum for basic education is on excellent level and under continuous scrutiny to match the future requirements for today´s youth.

But in Lempäälä they want to cover more than the basic agenda. They want to support the students to find their strengths and hidden talents early on. Better self awareness and understanding of what is best for myself are needed in the world of information flow and continuous stimulus. Own place within society and working life seems to be more and more difficult to plan and the feeling of insecurity can be stressful. A good self understanding helps to make right choices in life.

Jarmo Lehtinen is a teacher who wants to equip the students in the best possible way for the future working life – and life. – We learn by doing, we execute a lot of practical projects and try new things, we are not here just for theoretizing. The students are creative and innovative in a group they know and can trust. In it, it´s easy to get to know also difficult and hard topics.

Students get active for their own wellbeing

In the fall 2018 personal wellbeing has been in focus. – They say that we should be careful not to put too much pressure on the students. But the future will be very demanding, there will be a lot of things that need adaptation. We are learning stress management proactively, says Jarmo Lehtinen. – In media they discuss a lot of how young people are tired of school. I’d sat it’s not just school, but all the other things beside it, too. The whole life can be tiring these days. That’s why we need to aim for balance in everything, Lehtinen continues.

Lempäälä high school has taken a holistic approach to wellbeing. Everybody knows by now the 8+8+8 model. It means that there should be work, free time and rest in right proportions in the day. Sleep, exercise and stress management have been covered in a project led by an external coach, Pertti Ratilainen.

Before the project the teachers agreed that there should be tangible measured data. This would be important both in getting a good picture on wellbeing of the students but also in ensuring funding for the project. The Moodmetric smart ring measurement was chosen for a 2 week period for everyone participating in the pilot project. The measurements were done in October and the pilot was concluded in December.

What was learned from the Moodmetric measurement?

Students Karita Tanni and Kristian Haapalehto were glad to take part in the measurement. – I really looked forward to the measurement, I wanted more information of how my body works. When I got the ring, it was really interesting to follow the real time data, Karita Tanni.

The Moodmetric measurement data shows what stresses out and what calms down. For high school students it was surprising how strongly the mind could react and how it could stay active for a long time. On the other hand, a good focus on homework was well shown as low Moodmetric numbers. Relaxed states were also measured e.g. while driving or spending time with friends. These were the positive learnings that the students learned to look for. – With the Moodmetric measurement, I found ways how not to stress, says Kristian Haapalehto.

Also the teachers got interested in the measurement

The Moodmetric measurement was originally intended just for the students, but the teachers wanted to participate as well. We wanted to show the principal, how stressful our work is, laughs Jarmo Lehtinen.  – For students it was a surprise how many loading factors there were outside of school. For teachers the challenges of everyday life were more familiar. Jarmo Lehtinen gives an example: -We have a puppy now, which already makes a big impact for how much sleep I am getting – or not getting!

According to the Moodmetric measurement the school days have been quite active for both the students and the teachers. This can be a sign of enthusiasm, and of the joy of learning new things. High levels can also be a sign of negative stress. This would mean high Moodmetric levels combined with general negative experienced mood. In these cases it would be the most important to look for moments of recovery.

The sleep

Many were surprised to see how different the nights were from one to another. – One night was not similar to another. The most valuable insight personally was how much I can do myself to sleep better. What I do during the day and evening has a huge impact on sleep. Watching a soccer game where my team finally lost was not the best preparing for the night, grins Lehtinen.

Do I have the willpower to change my habits?

Young adults are very well aware of the factors affecting their wellbeing. Good habits have been discussed at home – the parents remind of the bedtime and try to limit the time spent on smartphone.

Knowing what is good for us is not enough. The difficult part is to change habits for better wellbeing, says Pertti Ratilainen. -This is difficult especially to adults! Even a small increase to sleep or outdoor activity seems to be very difficult to do.

The students of the Lempäälä high school show that they can do better. During the project, 80% of the participants had made positive changes for their own wellbeing.

This is just a beginning, says Jarmo Lehtinen. – We are planning a much larger project for next semester. We aim to include every 1. and 2. year student to be active for their own wellbeing. The effects of the products we expect to see in learning and school work immediately. In long term, it would be great to provide these students practical wellbeing tools for the entire life.

Ask more about the Lempäälä high school wellbeing project:

Lempäälä high school: Jarmo Lehtinen [email protected]

Coach in the project: Pertti Ratilainen

Moodmetric: Niina Venho [email protected] +358 40 7104087

Good start to stress management

The starting level and objectives in stress management are as important as when maintaining physical condition. An employer wishes that every employee is with good health and well-being for the duration of their career. Most companies systematically take actions to promote this. When looking at stress management from an individual point of view, there are as many situations as people.

From a physical point of view someone might have as an objective to spend less time on a couch. Another wants to run a marathon or win a competition in weight lifting. Regarding the mental well-being, too many just would like to manage it until tomorrow.

“5 simple ways to live a less stressful life” or  “7 tips to managing daily stress”  are interesting titles and lead thoughts to how things are in ones´ life. Often these tips do not take into account the big picture nor is the experienced stress positive or negative.

The Moodmetric smart ring is the only wearable that shows the cognitive and emotional stress real time, and enables measuring also in long term.

The Moodmetric measurement data from several years has brought better understanding on stress

Analyzing the Moodmetric  data over the course of four years has helped us to better understand the fluctuating stress levels. The measurement periods are are from 2 weeks to years, which enables seeing how changes in life affect the stress levels. It has become clear, that a person’s starting point plays an important role in stress management.

1. People stress differently

Based on the Moodmetric measurement people can be roughly divided to two categories

  • Reaching high stress levels often and easily, both out of excitement and of negative stress. This means reacting often very strongly to emotional and cognitive stimuli.
  • Those who react more flatly, have less deviation from average values. Also these people can reach high Moodmetric-levels very fast, but they normally soon return back to equilibrium.

In the first group people might need to pay more attention to recovery every day. Sleep can be very deep when balance has been gained.

Example: A typical Moodmetric 24 hour measurement of a person easily reaching high stress levels. On the left the day from 6am to 6pm, on the right the night from 6pm to 6am.

In the second group the recovery during the night might not need to be as complete. This is because the load of the sympathetic nervous system is more modest during the day.

Example: A typical Moodmetric 24 hour measurement of a person with modest response to stress. On the left the day from 6am to 6pm, on the right the night from 6pm to 6am.

It is good to understand my own way to react to stress. There are as many ways as there are persons, and this can also change with different phases of life.

No way to react is better than the other. During evolution all types were needed – this has not changed. People acting differently are needed in social and occupational context. Diversity is good also regarding stress responses. 

2. You need to recover also from excitement

Also positive stress can wear out when going on for a long time. People devoted to their work, entrepreneurs, creative people and many others sometimes enjoy positive stress for too long. A dream job can also lead to burnout.a.

Devices and tests might tell a lot, but the most important is own experience. What is the situation in my life – the work, family, leisure, friends? Do I feel things are pretty good, or is some area of my life very demanding right now? If I say I am stressed, what does it feel like and how does it affect my life?

The Moodmetric smart ring is a support for individual stress management. It gives valuable measurement data and helps in better self understanding.

The measurement data always needs to be put in the context of own life. Same numbers can in different situations mean a different thing. Very low Moodmetric levels have been measured both with depressed and those who are simply always calm.

3. Good start to managing stress is to understand oneself and one’s life

What stresses me out, how do I calm down, what is my individual way to react? A short practice: Can you easily place yourself to the below fourfold table of wellbeing? No that your position might vary depending on whether you think of work, family or other part of life.

The wellbeing fourfold is for determining how high is the stress/arousal level, and is the state positive or negative. The Moodmetric measurement shows the stress level on a scale of 1 to 100. The app Analytics screen shows the chosen categories of life on a similar fourfold, when the user has defined the mood as pleasant/unpleasant. (Use the Diary feature for this.)

When defining where I am on the map, it is good to understand what was discussed in point 1: how do I react to stress. Some people mainly move in lower part of the picture, high levels of stress or excitement are not natural. Whether stress level is low or high, the right side of the fourfold is better in long term.

the Moodmetric measurement helps to manage stress better

The Moodmetric measurement helps to put oneself to the correct spot on the picture of own life and stress. What stresses me out, what not, what are my stress levels comparing the objective – ie. balance?

– What Moodmetric levels one should aim at?

No single measurement result is good or bad. In long term the objective is balance. This means that sleep and rest during the day compensate the activation of the sympathetic nervous system due to emotional or cognitive load. When the Moodmetric daily average number is about 50, it indicates balance of the autonomic nervous system.

Good start to managing stress is to acknowledge own situation as accurately as possible. Measured cognitive and emotional load is often both a support and a motivating factor.

 

The Moodmetric smart ring is available at the Moodmetric web shop.

Inquiries about the Moodmetric services for organizations: [email protected]

Read more about the Moodmetric company measurement at HERE Technologies. 

 

 

Do you study stress, customer experience, attention or decision making?

The Moodmetric measurement gives accurate and real time data on cognitive and emotional load of an individual. Use cases below give a snapshot on what kind of research it can be applied to. These are just a handful of examples. Electrodermal activity is a signal with great and for most unused potential in field research.

Stress measurement with Moodmetric

Positive stress is a good thing and when in control, it takes us forward. Chronic stress reduces productivity, creativity and job satisfaction and it is a risk for physical and psychological health. It is not easy to catch signals early and stress might not be detected before it has reached harmful levels.

Questionnaires are subjective and bound to a certain moment. Preventive stress management needs continuous and long term measurement. The Moodmetric ring is intended for weeks and months of use. The mobile app offers a real time view which enables insights that can be actioned immediately.

Even though the Moodmetric measurement is primarily intended for use at occupational health, the real time measurement enables several kinds of research. Below are some example use cases to give a picture of it´s possibilities:

Customer experience

A customer is testing a new shopping center virtually. The center is equipped with innovative implementations, including parking, navigating inside the center, paying in the shops (only mobile payment) etc. The pilot customers´ opinion have a major significance on the final drawings and the pilot is heavily studied. The Moodmetric measurement shows instantly and in real time the pain points – when the experience is getting from smooth to troublesome. The Moodmetric levels increase in seconds when the customer is perplexed.

A much simpler example would be e.g. driving through a car washing lane. How many of the customers actually get terrified inside, with not way of getting out in the middle? Could this be eased out somehow?

The Moodmetric measurement can be used to tracking stress levels in any environment, inside or out in the woods. It suits to observing a person in different situations, like choosing clothes. Which print makes the person react?

Gaming

Mobile and desktop games can be extremely agitating. Chasing, fighting, racing and performing dangerous tasks is enervating. The sympathetic nervous system of the player is active, as the body does not understand that the threat is just an illusion created by the game developer.

A game can also be soothing, like puzzles. Focus is needed but vigilance not.

What kind of a game is yours and what is the target audience? What if you could design games that really calm down the sympathetic nervous system – a game that you could wholeheartedly recommend e.g. for kids with concentration difficulties?

Pay attention! – Study focus with Moodmetric

We make better decisions, our movements are correct and precise, and we make better analysis when we pay attention. Really pay attention by not letting noises, lights, phone, emails or the smell of lunch distract us.

The Moodmetric index of 1 to 100 tells our arousal level. When focused, the level is below 30, in most cases below 20. Full focus on the task at hand might show a steady level of 12 with almost a straight electrodermal activity curve on the Moodmetric mobile app. The person is far from being sleepy (although in the evening at the sofa the numbers might be exactly the same), but fully focused.

This does not necessarily need an isolated environment. Most people can find their way to reach focus no matter the surroundings. But as it is not easy, many companies design spaces and areas inside their offices that enhance concentration.

Sports

What kind of training methods provide the best results? The Moodmetric measurement makes it possible to better understand what level of focus the athlete reaches. Interventions such as mental exercises can tested and found out the ones with the best results for improving concentration. The measurement also provides insights as to when recovery from practice is sufficient. The app diary helps to analyse which activities should be toned down or avoided in order to benefit optimally from training.

 

Interested to know more about the Moodmetric measurement and why the Moodmetric ring is especially well suited to measure electrodermal activity?

Read our recently published articles starting with:

PART 1: Fight or flight response

Applications in research and ongoing projects:

Research

Or contact us directly:
Niina Venho / CEO
niina. [email protected]

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

The Moodmetric stress measurement data is real-time and tells of the fluctuating stress levels also in long term.

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 the Moodmetric ring worksThe Moodmetric smart ring measures electrodermal activity. It detects skin conductance with the band of the ring that works as a set of electrodes. The band consists of two silver coated steel rings and an insulator band in between them. 

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. The ring form was chosen to achieve the best possible accuracy generated by the Moodmetric sensor. The actual point of measurement is on the inside of the finger and at best the signal is 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 in 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 

PART 2: Chronic stress – The brain concludes that we are continuously in danger

The autonomic nervous system regulates the functions of our body as situations so require. Recovery and healing systems are the most active during sleep.  After lunch it is important to digest the food and use the nutrients efficiently. When faced with imminent threat, the immune system and food processing are not important. These functions are turned off to conserve all possible energy for the use of muscles, which are needed in the fight-or-flight response.

By and large, the autonomic nervous system works unconsciously. It is responsible for many vital functions such as blood pressure, temperature regulation, digestion, and function of the adrenal cortex.  It works through the neural network that controls the heart and other organs. The autonomic nervous system keeps us alive without us knowingly doing anything about it.

The autonomic nervous system consists of two complementary parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic.  When active, the parasympathetic nervous system slows down our heartbeat, enhancing digestion and healing. It strives to calm the body down and keep the vital functions stable.

The sympathetic part is responsible for preparing our body for action, with the axons (nerve fibers) of the system being able to innervate tissues in almost every organ. The sympathetic nervous system becomes active in stressful situations and during hard physical strain.

Both parts of the autonomic nervous systems normally work in good cooperation, but as a seesaw.  When the other becomes active, the other slows down. For instance, in acute stress reaction the sympathetic nervous system works at full speed, in an instant. The parasympathetic part ceases to operate and, for example, digestion almost comes to a halt. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems have evolved to enable accurate and fast regulation of our internal mechanisms, regardless of the situation.

The fight-or-flight response is a way for us to cope in a threatening, rapidly escalating situation. In the time of cavemen, situations requiring response were normally quickly over and fights did not last for weeks or months. For us today, things can be completely different: The stress reaction might be a permanent state, and the parasympathetic nervous system does not have the chance to return our body to rest.

In long term stress the cortisol levels in our body are continuously high

Chronic stress keeps the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis active. It is like an idling motor, pumping stress hormones, such as cortisol, to our system.

Cortisol helps us to confront the threat, but it simultaneously shuts down the immune system. From the evolutionary point of view, this makes sense: If a crocodile attacks, we can shut down all the functions in the body that are not essential for fleeing or fighting. The immune defense of our body is weakened when we are continuously stressed, and this might lead to a series of infections. Stress factors also play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, heart and blood vessel diseases, and cancer. Continuous boosts of adrenaline can harm blood vessels, raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Worrying and fear increase our mental load and can put further strain on the sympathetic nervous system; physical symptoms persist, recovery via beneficial rest and sleep does not happen.

Heavy cognitive and emotional load during recovery from an illness might be as bad for our body as physical exercise. Our body would choose to put the work aside when being ill.

Chronic Stress affects memory, concentration and appetite

In a state of chronic stress, the brain thinks that a physical fight is about to start at any time. Cortisol, in turn, tells our body to have much energy available. It then enhances appetite and storing of extra energy, with might lead to weight gain.

Cortisol is also released to the hippocampus, the part of our brain which is central for memorizing and learning. A stressed-out person has difficulties in learning and regulating their emotions. There are also often problems associated with concentration and memory.

Burnout

Chronic stress cannot go on forever without its repercussions. Burnout is the consequence of chronic stress causing severe disturbance to our vital physical and mental mechanisms. A simultaneous collapse of our psychological, neural, metabolic and immune systems might be so all-encompassing that a complete recovery is very slow or even impossible.

The best cure for burnout is prevention. It can be difficult to accept the graveness of the situation. People tend to compare themselves and their work rhythms to others, set the bar too high and pretend that everything is fine. Just moments before the disintegration takes place, everything might appear quite normal for the people around.

Talk to your friends and family, colleagues, your superior or a health care professional if you feel that the load is too high. Usually the first cautionary signs are linked to changes in your sleep patterns.

The brain, sleep and stress

When our lives are in balance, we recover from acute stress reactions and even longer burdensome periods of strain. We all experience major turning points in our lives: a newcomer to the family, moving house, a study or work project that is exceptionally demanding. We overcome these changes and challenges when the quality and amount of recovery is sufficient enough.

Sleep is our most important means of recovery and an indicator of balance. Weeks and months of disturbed sleep is a sign of stress, and sleep deprivation further weakens our resilience to adapt to the challenges we have to deal with.

The brain needs sleep. During sleep our bodies repair and restore in ways we’re not aware of. It is almost like we need a nightly reboot to feel physically and mentally well.

There is no health without sleep. The importance of proper recovery becomes clear after experiencing periods of sleeping poorly. At worst life is reduced to mere coping. Unfortunately, this is reality for so many of us, so much so that we have begun to think it is normal not to sleep enough. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When we sleep well most nights and feel refreshed in the morning, our body and mind are better prepared to perform well. We are in balance.

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