Let’s keep motivated and happy
We are all adjusting to this “New Normal” with fewer physical connections in our daily lives than ever before. Whether we are healthy and practising social distancing, in quarantine with symptoms, or in self-isolation due to being in the high risk group, working from home or living alone.
This could lead to a sense of feeling socially isolated, physically disconnected to the outside world, lonely or exacerbating existing mental and physical health issues. Living through a pandemic and learning to cope with all the fears, uncertainties and rapid changes can be challenging on our mental health.
Fortunately we have never been more better placed than now to deal with this period of physical distancing. Most of us in Europe have good digital skills and access. There are also lots of knowledge and resources already available to help us adapt our physical life to a more digital one - such as smartphones with high quality cameras, social media networks and access to online tutorials and webinars to solve any pressing questions.
Being Here is a web app that helps us cope and adapt through this global pandemic by boosting our mental and physical health and building meaningful social connections.
1. Motivate Start the day with a daily assessment of your mood and energy levels. Being Here will recommend appropriate activities you can do indoors or outdoors based on your location to motivate us to be physically active.
2. Be mindful Take photos during your activities to create moments of mindfulness and reflect on these with a short caption. These will form a visual diary of poignant memories to remind you of meaningful experiences to boost your mental health.
3. Meaningful connections Share your photos in the public gallery with activities that bring you joy, so that others may be inspired to try it out too. Share them with people you see often, such as friends, family and colleagues to share experiences and tips. Share even with people you don’t know, such as a self-isolating neighbour who wants to see her favourite tree blossoming, or even to a visitor disappointed that his trip is cancelled. This glimpse of the outside world will create a sense of stability and normality.
Even in this period of social distancing, we can still find ways to connect with each other, bring the world into your home and feel a sense of normality and stability.
Being Here was created during Sweden's Hack the Crisis Hackathon on 3-5 April.
During this EUvsVirus Challenge, I have created a working digital prototype which can make daily assessments, suggest recommendations, and collect photos of the user’s experiences. These can be viewed privately on an app, along with photos shared by other users.
Typeform was used as a survey to assess the user’s mood, energy and location. The logic jump function enables a more responsive recommendation of indoor or outdoor activities. The survey collects a photo and a short description of the activity. These are all linked to their assessment to analyse if the activity boosts the mood and energy level.
The survey results are dynamically linked to a Google spreadsheet on Glideapp. This enables the app to quickly display the survey results. The app can chart the user’s mood and energy on a calendar, see their own photos as a visual diary, and view other photos shared by other users in both gallery and map view.
The Being Here app has been shared with my personal network for first testing and iterations. The survey takes an average of 2.50 minutes to complete. So far, there are fourteen people reported feeling better after walking, cycling, reading, gardening or baking across Sweden, the UK, Portugal and Germany..
“As a psychologist, I highly recommend your project because you deal with some very important variables from the psychological perspective. You deal with motivation. You deal with behaviour change and this is very easy for society at this moment…. So go ahead, and continue to build your team and build your app, because it’s really needed, your project.” Marta Pimenta de Brito, psychologist and skills mentor in the challenge. https://youtu.be/NX8bnhU-Ivo
Many European countries have already restricted their citizens’ movement since March. Even as restrictions are cautiously and slowly lifting, uncertainty looks set to continue over the coming months - maybe even as long as over the next 18-24 months until a vaccine can be mass produced. The economic and social impacts will last for even longer and deeper.
Understanding what helps us feel better, calmer or more energised at home and in the open or built up spaces near our homes, will help us become more resilient and adapt better to the continuing changes and uncertainties.
Staying physically and mentally active will boost our overall health, including encouraging time spent in nature. This will mean a healthier population who will not add more pressure on our health systems, so that they can focus on treating the most severe ill patients.
Being Here also helps us get on with our daily lives and challenges as best as we can - as students, employees, parents, friends, community, businesses and organisations. This means society can function as normal as possible under these challenging circumstances, and reduce the impacts of the economic downturns.
Being Here creates visual and digital connections cross-borders despite the travel restrictions. This creates a photographic map of solidarity of how citizens across the EU and the world are sharing experiences and adapting in this pandemic together. A future function of sharing photos as postcards can help connect with local residents whose countries you are no longer able to visit and continue to promote countries and regions.
Necessities to continue the project
Reach more users
- Understand user behaviours better to improve recommendations, including different user groups -Partner up with companies with many remote employees to help them feel more connected and boost team relationships and morale
Promote places, cities and regions
- Partner up with local authorities to help boost community cohesion, understand how their local areas are being used in the pandemic and a quicker response
- Partner up with travel and tourism boards to promote their cities and regions including a ‘Send a postcard’ function to connect travellers whose trips have been cancelled
- Working with the EU to promote Pan-European solidarity across its regions
Further digital development and functions
- More features of the Glideapp can be unlocked with a paid subscription to increase number of users, map pin points and storage and analytics
- Integrating APIs to suggest places of interests according to the users’ location
- Locating footpaths, cycle lanes including measurements to recommend wider paths
- Live data of mobile users and speed to recommend less crowded places with walkers, runners, cyclists
- Weather APIs including sunrise and sunset times
- Integrating with geolocation tracking apps, such as Strava to map activities
Funding for development and marketing
- More features and APIs can be purchased to unlock more functionalities above
- During the crisis period, Being Here can be offered to individuals, companies and organisations to boost mental health resilience
- After the crisis and with more data and behaviour learnt, Being Here can become a paid subscription service and customised for companies and public organisations
Value after the crisis
Being Here users will have stronger physical and mental health, who are more resilient to cope and adapt to changes - including the long, uncertain economic and social conditions once the health crisis is over. The climate crisis will also bring further big changes.
Data collected during the crisis can help us understand better how to improve mood and motivation. Working with psychologists and data scientists can establish the use of AI and machine learning to offer more customised recommendations, in particular the role of places, activities, photos as therapy and what create meaningful connections. This will help Being Here be more effective to support self-driven behaviour change and increase motivation and engagement in activities and our communities.
Sadly the mental health crisis has been a silent epidemic untreated for a very long period.
“EU-OSHA (2014) reports that the total cost of mental ill health in Europe is €240 billion/per year of which €136 billion/per year is the cost of reduced productivity including absenteeism and €104 billion/per year is the cost of direct costs such as medical treatment. Reduced performance due to psychosocial problems may cost twice that of absence.” Mental Health In The Workplace In Europe, Centre for Organizational Health & Development, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham
With a better understanding of how to effectively drive self-motivated behaviour change, Being Here will be able to support those already suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. As a resident in Sweden, this will be very useful ahead of the long cold dark winter!