If you want to stick to a new fitness routine, you could shell out for a personal trainer—or enlist a workout buddy who can bribe you with the promise of white chocolate matchas after class. (Hey, whatever gets you out the door when it’s sub-freezing.)
But for other New Year’s resolutions, accountability has always been a little harder to come by. After all, most of us don’t have a sleep coach who will ensure we go to bed before 10 p.m. or a wine coach (can that be a thing?) to stop us from reaching for that glass of Pinot in pursuit of a dry January.
Enter behavioral trackers: a new wave of wearable devices that monitor everything from mindfulness to sleep cycles to posture, providing valuable feedback on your habits and dishing out advice and motivation for correcting unhealthy patterns.
“Information and data don’t actually translate into behavior change. It’s about how you use that information to provide tangible triggers and rewards.”
These next-gen devices aren’t just about aggregating data; they’re designed to help you use that information to create lasting change. So why are habits so powerful?
“Habits turn behaviors that are normally unrewarding, boring, or repetitive into something you don’t even have to think about,” says Kayla Matheus, the creator of a new accountability assistant called Moti. “In the modern world, our brains are on overload and our willpower diminishes over the course of the day. But if you can turn a new behavior into a habit itself, then the amount of energy and willpower you have to exert goes to zero.”
According to Matheus, simply logging steps, calories, or minutes on your meditation pillow isn’t going to lead to long-term behavioral shifts. “Information and data don’t actually translate into behavior change,” she says. “It’s about how you use that information to provide tangible triggers and rewards around the behavior itself.”
Luckily, there are now an array of tech-enhanced companions to do just that. Looks like 2017 might be the year those resolutions finally stick—no bribery needed.
Keep reading to discover seven behavioral trackers that’ll help with every type of New Year’s resolution.
While most fitness trackers today log sleep stats, Beddit 3 is by far the most sophisticated option available. The slim device rests on top of your mattress and tracks not just your biometrics—heart rate, snoring, breathing—but also the temperature and humidity in your bedroom and your daytime habits that might sneakily affect sleep quality. It’s also equipped with an alarm clock that will wake you up at the optimal time in your sleep cycle.
The results are compiled into a comprehensive trend report that you can share with your doctor for personalized advice. But there’s a lot that you can discern on your own from the app’s data.
“Most often, there are sleep stealers hiding in your daily habits that can be identified and controlled to encourage better sleep. But what’s fascinating is the variance in them,” says Beddit’s Eliot Baker. “For some people, a bedtime glass of wine and a hot shower sends them straight to Mr. Sandman. For others, booze and heat gets their heart racing and results in restlessness. Sleep is so personal that you need to have a way of tracking the things you do and how they are influencing it over time.” And once you’ve made those connections, it’s easier to form a habit that works for you.
If you want to: get your periods in check
Try: Leaf by Bellabeat, $119-$139
This wearable device’s companion app comes complete with an ovulation calendar, cycle tracker, and contraception reminder, allowing you to keep tabs on your menstrual stats from month to month.
The best part: The Leaf tracker also collects data on exercise, stress, sleep, and mindfulness, so you can get a sense of how all of these factors are affecting your symptoms. (Have a late period? Maybe your marathon training regimen or your string of late nights at work are to blame.)
Customizable coaching reminders will give you even more incentive to reach your overall wellness goals, perhaps allowing you to say buh-bye to PMS in 2017.
If you want to: dive deeper into meditation
Try: Muse, $199.99
If you’re particularly goal-driven, meditation can be a hard thing to get into—the whole idea is that you’re not supposed to do or achieve anything while sitting in silence.
But the Muse headband looks at meditation through a different lens: It tracks your brain waves to determine whether you’re focusing, and then sends you feedback via nature-inspired soundscapes to help you consciously train your mind into a target zone. (For instance, a rain forest option gets stormy when your brain is active, and then calms down as your thoughts settle.)
It’s also got lots of other healthy habit-inducing features, like progress reports, milestones, and rewards for meditating on the regular.
If you want to: start—and stick to—a new project
Try: Moti, launching early 2017
Moti is billed as a gym buddy in desktop form, tapping into the psychology of what makes a human accountability partner so effective. With a “personality” made up of light, sound, and vibration, Moti cheers you on when you take a step toward a goal—say, doing a 30-day yoga challenge or writing a novel—and expresses displeasure when you flake.
“There are studies in social robotics that show when humans interact with technology that comes alive in our physical world, we are much more engaged and motivated,” explains Matheus. “Your phone doesn’t really care if you do those push-ups or not.”
Since everyone responds to different types of feedback—positive vs. negative—users take a quiz to figure out their motivational style during the setup process. That will determine whether your Moti is friendly and encouraging… or more like a tiny, digital drill sergeant.
If you want to: decrease anxiety
Try: Spire, $99.95
The world’s first device to focus on tracking breathing patterns, Spire senses when your inhales and exhales become tense or stressed, then buzzes to snap you out of it.
Not only is it seriously eye-opening—I bought one of these a few months ago and couldn’t believe how often my breathing fell into the anxiety zone, without even being aware of it—but Spire also comes with a library of brief guided meditations that you can use to diffuse anxious moments. And since exercise is also a major stress reducer, it includes an activity tracker that motivates you to reach pre-designated step goals.
If you want to: improve your posture (and confidence)
Try: Lumo Lift Posture Coach, $79.99
It’s been well documented that standing up straight—in a “power pose,” if you will—has all sorts of benefits, from increasing confidence to lowering stress hormones. Problem is, if you’re freaking out before a big presentation, it can be hard to remember the old chest-up, shoulders-back mantra.
That’s where Lumo Lift comes in. The device clips on to your bra strap and vibrates every time you slouch, gently reminding you to assume a better position. Along with posture coaching, the Lumo device and its accompanying app allow you to track stress, distance, and calories, eliminating the need for a second wearable. Are you standing at attention yet?
If you want to: quit sugar (or another hard-to-kick habit)
Try: Pavlok, $149.99
One of the more controversial trackers on the scene is Pavlok, a wristband that gives you a mild electric shock when you engage in a behavior you’re trying to quit. (Yes, really). The device is based on Pavlovian conditioning—the idea is that if you give yourself a little dose of pain when you’re craving something, you’ll soon come to have a negative association with that trigger, whether it’s cupcakes, nail biting, or hitting snooze.
You can either administer the shock yourself or automate it—a new Chrome browser extension will even automatically zap you if you find yourself wasting time online—and the accompanying app keeps track of your transgressions and progress over time. While online reviews have been mixed, the brand claims that most people are able to kick their bad habits in 2-10 days.
One thing’s for sure: It’s definitely not the most attractive tracker out there. In my opinion, that’s incentive enough to stick with the program and banish your vices (and devices) as quickly as possible.
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