We All Need A Win Sometimes, So Make Them Yourself

We all need the occasional win when it comes to work or personal projects. Being able to feel that payoff of progress and satisfaction is deeply important, because if everything is always uphill, that’s a recipe for burnout. Avoiding that is important enough to explore how to set oneself up for a few easy wins.

Getting the occasional win helps us stay motivated, creative, and fulfilled. Meaningful work can deliver on this, but many of us rely on hobbies to make up any shortfall. Sometimes, that isn’t enough. Hobbies themselves can end up feeling like a chore, and when that happens, they cease to provide respite. The good news is that I believe it is possible to exploit the benefits of hobbies to deliver supplemental “wins” when they are needed most, and I’ll explain how.

I have found that successes do not have to be hard-won in order to be beneficial, but they do need to be relevant to one’s passions and interests. So, when naturally-occurring successes come too few and far between, and hobbies aren’t doing the trick, use knowledge of yourself to stack the deck for some easy wins. It can tip the scales towards feeling meaningful progress and fulfillment in the face of what could otherwise lead to burnout. Continue reading “We All Need A Win Sometimes, So Make Them Yourself”

Dealing With A Hacked Brain; Let’s Talk About Depression

This post is different from normal Hackaday fare. I don’t want to presume anything about you, but I’m pretty sure the story I’m about to share resonates with at least some of you.

I’ve been having a tough time, exacerbated by this age of social distancing. This all crept up on me at first, but as I began to look back on my behavior and moods, I began noticing patterns that I hadn’t noticed before. This is certainly a relevant issue in this community, so let’s talk about mental health, beginning with my own journey.

Continue reading “Dealing With A Hacked Brain; Let’s Talk About Depression”

Surviving The Pandemic As A Hacker: Take Care Of Your Mental Health

As we’ve looked at the subject of face masks in the first two parts of this series, our emphasis has been on a physical step to aid your chances of making it through the COVID-19 pandemic in one piece. But given that the upheaval caused by all the social changes enacted to protect the population are likely to leave an indelible mark on those who live through them, there are significant aspects of surviving all this that go beyond the physical.

This will be a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people, a significant number will find it traumatic in some way, and for many of those people there will be an immediate and then ongoing effect on mental health. If anyone is in doubt as to from what position this is coming, I count myself among that number.

The Pressure Of A Once In A Lifetime Event

Piccadilly Circus, London, during the COVID-19 lockdown. Normally this is packed.
Piccadilly Circus, London, during the COVID-19 lockdown. Normally this is packed. Kwh1050 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Different countries have placed their own public health restrictions on their populations, but it’s likely that many of you are in some form of lockdown situation, with social or communal  activities and locations closed or curtailed, going out restricted, and with all around you in the same situation. A perfect storm of having social outlets removed while simultaneously being stuck at home perhaps with family or housemates you’d prefer not to spend too much time with is not ideal. Add to that the multiple stresses from the pandemic itself as well as other news stories from our turbulent world, and it’s hardly a surprising that it’s taking a toll. Continue reading “Surviving The Pandemic As A Hacker: Take Care Of Your Mental Health”

Friday Hack Chat: Hacking For Mental Health

Quite often we see applications of hacking and DIY in the medical field. From 3D printed prosthetics to hacked insulin pumps, there’s a wide variety of stuff you can do, but what about psychology? That’s what our Hack Chat this Friday is all about.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is Curt White. He’s been building medical devices for years, and when he’s not doing that he’s creating interactive installation art and costumes. At work he’s a device and sensor developer at the Child mind Institute MATTER Lab where he designs and researches wearable medical devices for children with mental health issues. He’s currently working on gesture detection using wearables, machine learning optimized for microcontrollers, and building and fixing prototypes.

For this hack chat, we’ll talk about how mental health can be addressed by building things with a focus on wearable devices and sensor data. How are wearables challenging the outdated and arbitrary classification of psychiatric disorders, and what is the potential for audio, EEG, and fMRI to help us progress beyond checklist diagnosis? We’ll also talk about:

  • Hacking for mental health
  • Addressing the intangible with the tangible
  • Working with medical researchers
  • The fact that you don’t need an IRB if you don’t accept federal funding, or are working in Belize.

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Hacking For Mental Health Event Page and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week is just like any other, and we’ll be gathering ’round our video terminals at noon, Pacific, on Friday, August 24th. Need a countdown timer? Go go go

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Hacked Fitness Trackers Aim To Improve Mental And Physical Health

We all know that the mind can affect the body in dramatic ways, but we tend to associate this with things like the placebo effect or psychosomatic illnesses. But subtle clues to the mind-body relationship can be gleaned from the way the body moves, and these hacked fitness monitors can be used to tease data from the background noise of everyday movements to help treat mental health issues.

Over the last few years, [Curt White] of the Child Mind Institute has been able to leverage an incredibly cheap but feature-packed platform, the X9 Pro Sports Bracelet, a fitness band that looks more or less like a watch. Stuffed with an ARM Cortex processor, OLED screen, accelerometer, pulse sensor, and a ton of other stuff, the $35 wearable is a hacker’s dream. And hack it he did. One version of the bracelet is called Tingle, which is used to detect and avert body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), compulsive disorders that can result in self-harm through pulling at hair or pinching. The Tingle is trained to recognize the motions associated with these behaviors and respond with haptic feedback through the vibration motor. Another hacked X9 was attached to a dental retainer and equipped with sensors to monitor respirations intraorally, in an attempt to detect overdoses. It’s fascinating stuff, and the things [Curt] has done with these cheap fitness bands is mighty impressive.

This project is yet another entry in the 2018 Hackaday Prize, which is currently in the Robot Modules phase. Got an idea for something to make robots easier to build? Start a project page on Hackaday.io and get entered. Maybe your module will even feature a hacked fitness tracker.

Continue reading “Hacked Fitness Trackers Aim To Improve Mental And Physical Health”