Press release for app launch - March 2020
Really, in the grand scheme of things, it could be a lot worse. I write this in the midst of Coronavirus panic; at home we're out of toilet paper but people have cleared the shelves of every supermarket I've tried in the last couple of days. It seems so silly.
We lose our minds over things that probably won’t affect us and meanwhile utterly fail to address the true causes of our own misery. The distractions are endless. Our anxiety is relentlessly overstimulated by incursions designed to attract our attention by stressing us out. How can anybody hope to deal with this?
Along comes “Mindfulness” to the rescue. Just put on a pair of sandals and be at one with the universe, we’re smugly advised. “I meditate for half an hour every morning and I’ve never felt better” says your most insufferable colleague. “Since I started hypnotherapy I’ve turned my life around. It’s only £150 a session and it’s a staple of my Tuesdays and Thursdays”. Yeah okay. Sure. I’ll just cancel my rent and do that instead.
Once in a while you might manage to suppress your ADHD long enough to get through a decent self-help book. You’ll organise your life with renewed vigour and you’ll feel like you’re back on track. For a while at least. Until reality slowly grinds you back into submission.
For a more sustainable fix you might turn to apps. Rejecting the morass of wellbeing apps offering nothing but trite morning aphorisms flanked by ads, you look at an on-demand therapy app you heard about on a podcast, but it seems to cost more than seeing a therapist in real life. You take on a subscription meditation app that you keep up with for a while before it becomes a guilty monthly billing email.
What about mood tracking? “Track your mood and find out what really makes you tick”. Seems patronising. Seems nerdy. But if you’re already using a step-counter, a wi-fi scale and counting calories, why not find something that lets you track something a bit more existential?
That’s what I’ve built. A mood tracking app. I am sorry to admit that I am a pioneer of the “quantified self” movement - I’m one of those nerds who tracks everything. But hear me out. I might be biased after spending eight unpaid months working on this project but I think I might have something you could use here. Certainly £3.99’s worth.
I’ve built several mood trackers over the last decade and this is the latest. It doesn’t detect your pulse rate to determine your mood. It doesn’t scan your face for a smile. It doesn’t track the motion of your phone’s accelerometer or use machine learning to detect your state of mind (well, only a little bit). It just asks you. It interrupts you at random (because what’s the point of only tracking your happiness when you happen to be in the mood to track your happiness?) and ask “How are you?” and makes it exceptionally quick and easy to reply. You don’t have to set aside half an hour every day. You can even do it on your watch. It’ll snap you out of your anxiety or nostalgia and you’ll pay attention to the moment you’re in right now which is basically the key to happiness before we’ve even started.
Before long you’ll have collected enough data to do something meaningful and you get charts. But these aren’t your mother’s charts. These are some slick augmented reality ‘experiences’. Scan a nearby table and up pops a word cloud, shuffling around as you scroll back and forward in time, with a button letting you filter by things that make you happy or things that don’t.
Why is it in augmented reality? I felt limited when I was trying to fit loads of data onto a tiny mobile-friendly pie chart and decided to make you feel like Iron Man instead (or Pepper Potts, or anyone from any film featuring impractical holographic user interfaces). But I think it works here - you can explore all the nooks and crannies of your data by moving your phone around it until you find a good angle and take a picture.
I think it looks cool and I’ve got loads more ideas for new things to add.
Why “Changes”? Well, that’s the real innovation here, if I do say so myself. Life isn’t just a static snapshot. It’s not a moment in time. It’s a song. It’s a story. We define ourselves by the stories we tell. When we’re subject to the whims of anxiety we’ll write negative stories about ourselves. But if we can use data instead, if we can shine a light on our actual emotional history, when we can track back through what actually made us happy, we can discover that running out of toilet paper was never a factor. We can take control of our own narrative and decisively make changes to our lives like an engineer, one at a time, and measure the results in terms of the only metric that truly matters: our happiness.
Michael Forrest - Founder, Developer - Good To Hear
Changes - Mood Insights is available now for iOS in the App Store
Find out more at goodtohear.co.uk/changes
More screenshots and video on the App Store