Working Toward Winter Happiness Week Ten

This week marks the end of the first stage of the project and a movement to a new stage based on my learnings to now. For ten weeks I’ve been tracking various metrics and habits that may or may not have to do with my feeling happy despite the cold weather and short days. Let’s take one final look at the goals:

Goal 1 (Go outside 7/7 days) and Goal 2 (Dress properly to enjoy being outside):

As mentioned previously, I am no longer pushing myself to go outside. Last week I went out only four times. Once to go to the office, once to get a haircut, once to try to catch a bus to the store but there were traffic issues and we decided not to wait 20 min for a bus in the icy wind. Yesterday I went out twice to prepare for a business trip I’ll be leaving on today. So that makes 4/7 or:

Goal 1: 57.1% – but every time I went out I dressed warmly – which these days is actually necessary given how cold and windy it’s been this week. So Goal 2: 100%

Goal 3: Running:

This is on indefinite hiatus due to injury. I’ll not be factoring this in.

Goal 4: Cycling:

I targeted 5 rides this week but in the end I only did 2 – or possibly 2.5 if you count the outdoor ride I did on Tuesday to get my hair cut. The two rides were indoor and relatively intense. The outdoor ride was short and easy and quite delightful despite the cold which is making me rethink my completely swearing off outdoor cycling.

I did only two because I thought I’d try taking the advice of my watch which was saying my recovery was poor and that I should rest due to a lack of sleep and lower than usual heart rate variability indicative of stress, poor sleep or overtraining. I’m not sure this was the right direction to take as it is entirely possible that my stress levels, in part due to an upcoming business trip, would’ve been helped by more exercise. Also there’s a bit of double-dipping going on, I think, with the metrics on the part of the watch. It’s saying my heart rate variability is low so I’m not fully recovered but that I’m also not fully recovered because of fair to poor sleep which is also measured in part by heart rate variability. So going forward I’ll be looking at this metric a little less. And I may well be doing more outdoor rides as well.

An older photo but the same trees looked exactly the same when I was there this week as they did back in November 2020. Coloured lights make me happy, especially at this time of year.

Goal 4: 40%

Goal 5: Get more than 6.5 hours sleep every day:

I managed to do this 4/7 times this week but on those days had some days approaching 8 hours of sleep which, considering I wake up at 5:00 AM is quite something. On the days I missed my goal, I didn’t miss by much – as little as 15 minutes more would’ve managed to do it for me.

Compared to last week (on the left) it looks very similar. How about my quality of sleep as rated by my watch?

Overall it seems I’m doing better sleep-wise and my impression of how I slept this week versus last (slightly better this week) checks out. I will say, though, that some days when I had a long sleep but it rated it as not good, I disagreed with it and felt good so we may be seeing variability induced by the tightness of my watch band and its effect on the heart monitor accuracy.

What about body battery? How did I manage my energy?

This looks like perhaps I did better managing my energy last week despite doing more exercise then also (or because of it?). I will say that that low reading Tuesday night seems a bit off. That morning I started off with a challenging ride, worked all day then went out for a short ride to get my haircut. Though I got down to 9% that day (same as a terrible day I talked about a few weeks back), I didn’t feel that bad at all. I didn’t want to go do anything strenuous but I didn’t feel completely wrung out like I did that week. So perhaps the answer here is to use it as a general guideline more than the absolute truth. In other words, if it’s low I can still do things but maybe not start a 50 km ride when I’m at 10%.

So for this goal, 4/7 gives me a value of:

Goal Five: 57.1%

Goal Six: Eat Properly

This week I feel I managed to do this for the most part. I still haven’t managed to get a good metric for this but I will say that last night we got takeout food that could’ve been more nutritious and I woke up hungry in the night. So that’s going to count as:

Goal Six: 80%

And how did this work out for my mood? Well, despite missing a few marks, I still have an average of:

Mood rating: 77.79%

Not quite as good as last week but still pretty great. My feeling based on this first few weeks is this:

Vitamin D:

More important for me than going outside is actually getting Vitamin D. I’m taking supplements and spending 30 minutes/day in front of the SAD lamp. Once I started using the lamp, things really seemed to improve. This may be the #1 factor.

Sleep:

Despite the ambiguity of sleep quality measurements, I do notice that when I get much below 6.5 hours, my mood declines. Not only that, if I am working that day my focus and productivity drops a bit which then feeds my negative mood. I don’t feel getting much more than 6.5 hours makes a huge difference, nor do I feel that “quality” has much impact except in extremes – for example if I’m measured tossing and turning all night that likely did feel bad and probably had to do with poor eating the day before)

Exercise:

I think this week I listened to my watch a bit more than I should have and took more time off than I should have. I think in this case listening to my body is more important than listening to my watch and riding in the morning seems to be really good at making my day go well even if by the end of the day I’m low on energy.

I think it’s very much worth noting that my worst day of the week was Friday when it had been the longest I’d gone without exercise in a while. By the end of the day, Sage was telling me to get on my bike and when work finished, I did just that – and felt so much better afterward.

So what does this mean?

I’ll continue tracking sleep and exercise. (Vitamin D and SAD lamp use is very consistent so no point in tracking that). I also will keep tracking mood as it’s useful to have this data. However I won’t be reporting on this. I think I’ve reached a transition point where I feel I’ve gone from trying to fight off an opponent and keeping it from getting the better of me to starting to understand what makes me tick. And not only that, understanding what makes me really enjoy life. To that end I did an exercise where I wrote down those things that make me deeply happy, and then find tasks relative to those things. Here’s what I came up with:

Seeing and sharing my city: I love seeing new things here and also enjoying the things that make Toronto a place I love living. There are some challenges on this front due to the pandemic but it’s manageable. When I return from my business trip I will be resuming scheduled library visits and writeups. When the weather permits, doing more dice walks will also be on the agenda.

Doing New Things: I’m still working on coming up with new 52 Adventures tasks though the weekly schedule is not really feasible these days. (Thanks to whomever recently sent an idea). Likewise, trying making new dishes and taking you along to shop for ingredients and make the dish either in text/photo or even video is in the cards. Will I fail? Possibly – witness my last try at sabudana kichidi.

Pushing My Limits: This ties to a few things and is likely the core for all of the things that makes me happy at the core. On the physical side, I want to do more endurance training for cycling. I’m curious about randonneuring – long distance endurance cycling. In August 2020 I did a 200 km bike ride in one day but it was tough. I’d like to get to the point where I can do that more easily and possibly longer distances. The caveat I have here is that many randonneurs do extreme endurance rides: 600-1200 km or more. While I may consider night riding as a part of this, I have no interest in riding to the point where lack of sleep affects my ability to ride safely. So 300 km may be the top for me. On the other hand, nothing would stop me from doing 2-3 200 km days in a row. (Heck, I could get to Montreal in three days that way – or ride to Montreal and back in a week. This doesn’t just involve training to endure exertion but possibly more important for me in other areas of my life is enduring adversity. Riding when it’s raining or just plain boring. Training for 2-3 hours on a bike in my office. The same skills help with work life and other areas – doing necessary things without giving up or getting irritated by it. So to start I’ll be commencing Zwift’s 100 mile ride training program and will work on getting there and beyond. That’s only a starting point, of course because my virtual bike is much nicer and lighter than my real one. 200 km took me all day in the real world, but might only take 7 hours virtually. So training to ride for 12-15 hours is in the cards.

Which also ties in to “being my best self” in other areas. I have plans for little experiments related to using less social media, traveling “acoustically” without a phone – a long ride without a phone and only paper maps could be interesting. I’m also eyeing books like Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction and one I’m really intrigued by: Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential. In the past few months I’ve implemented a few other techniques I’ve learned in productivity books and these have been very useful so I’m curious to do the same sort of study I did here – see what things do and do not work and report back.

So all in all, I deem this project a success. I hate to jinx it but it really seems like I’ve figured out what I need to do for basic happiness in winter. Now to work on improving on that. Watch and see what happens.

3 thoughts on “Working Toward Winter Happiness Week Ten

    1. Glad to help – I think in the end the two are related for me. To me, being more present means I’m being more intentional in how I’m living. I’m present noticing I’ve been pointlessly scrolling social media when I could be doing something that needs to be done. Or, for that matter, relaxing on the couch enjoying a television show. Whatever I’m doing, I’m there doing it and I know it is what will bring me toward where I want to be.

      Which doesn’t mean it isn’t productive either. That same presence at work, combined with a bit of understanding of my habits and human nature can result in my realizing I’m spending my time replying to work emails that are not particularly urgent when I could be working on something with an approaching deadline – BEFORE it becomes an urgent thing.

      1. I’m going through this very process right now, thinking about how I want to spend my limited time and what is no longer serving me–though it may pull me. I’m also dealing with deadlines, so I need to stay focused on my true goals. Thanks again, Todd.

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