I have a weird hobby. I like to break and make habits.
Sometimes it's small, like I'll do the same exercise at the same time every day for a month and then suddenly skip it, to see how my body and mind responds to the change. The patterns make me feel in control, but then the diversion makes me feel rebellious, like, "You don't own me, jump squats!"
Sometimes, it's to see if I can condition myself to enjoy something I find miserable, like running (I ran every day until it stopped being boring; then I quit) and Vinyasa yoga (I forced myself to do it for 40 days straight until I liked it; then I quit).
Other times, it's dangerous and stupid, some kind of twisted rush. I have repeatedly started smoking so I would get addicted so I could have the challenge of quitting. I wanted to "prove" to myself that it could not control me (although that's money and days off my lifespan I'll never get back).
Clearly, I need a new form of entertainment, before I end up sweating in bed a la "Trainspotting."
For a while, I was amusing/abusing (because numbers hurt me) my brain with Lumosity, the app that trains mental strength. That's when I stumbled across another app, same-same but different, called DeepSee. Whereas Lumosity trains mental strength, Boulder-based DeepSee trains emotional strength.
Ooh, this one's fun.
It goes one level deeper, beyond just satisfying my impulse to challenge my brain and body (yeah, that's what we'll call it; sounds totally healthy and functional). DeepSee is designed to help me understand why - the roots of that impulse to begin with, by short, daily exercises in mindfulness.
Ooh, this one's hard. Still fun. But ouch.
The app itself is as fun to use as those "about me" quizzes that high-schoolers and quarter-life crisis moms (me) share on Facebook ("What Disney princess/rock song/mythical beast/fungus are you?"), except it actually provides useful, meaningful self-awareness, and is based on more than 40 years of research. It was created alongside a psychometrician, whose goal was to make sure the program would provide accurate, unbiased personal and group statistical feedback, so you know where your emotional intelligence stands among the rest of the users.
Not that those "What Greek goddess are you?" quizzes aren't precisely accurate, even though every one of my friends has gotten Aphrodite except me, and obv I am totes the sexy goddess of love or whatev omg.
DeepSee has bigger plans than just improving self-awareness, though. It is specifically designed to help people, like veterans, move through trauma and learn how to make choices. Really choose.
About half of us feel trapped in our lives, according to a study by Radical Choices, the company that launched the app. Only 64 percent of those surveyed said they felt inspired by their work.
No matter how many levels of Lumosity you complete, that's not something puzzle-solving and memory games can fix.
And there's no standardized test in public schools to assure kids are taught emotional and relational well being, so many of us flop through the world half-conscious of the patterns that trap us, or (for the extra crazy among us, ahem) toying and fighting with those patterns, but really getting nowhere.
After DeepSee trains you in the six principles of mindfulness (insight, personal responsibility, authenticity, integrity, clear mind and awakened action), it moves on to topics of relationships, then connects users to mentor small groups of other users. The ultimate goal - still far out, as the app is just in its Beta phase - is to connect users with others around the world to use their shared interests to create big-scale social change.
It's ambitious, and maybe it'll never take off (unless it can find like $35 million to "buy" its place in the viral cool-kids scene; isn't that how those things work?). But if there's an app for everything - from building monster-style cartoon cupcakes to locating the nearest BDSM dungeon in your neighborhood - at least one of them is trying to use technology to evolve the world.
I'm on day 10 of DeepSee, and I've had an epiphany. I've decided to break my habit of starting new habits and then breaking them. Oh, it tickles!
I might need deeper intervention.
Learn more and try it yourself here: DeepSee.