The final assignment for the Science of Well-being course required students to try and develop a week long rewirement assignment into a habit over 4 weeks, then write about it. This need not be a daily habit, as that might take about 3 months from other research, but something done at least periodically each week. The quest for habit development is so that it becomes second nature. Consciously pursuing happiness all the time will drive you crazy, or at least neurotic, as other research has shown that was not mentioned in this course. I confirmed my thoughts on this from content in the free, 10-week course on the Science of Happiness offered by the UC Berkeley on their edX platform that is much more in-depth than this one, but may not as good as this Science of Well-being course for those just wanting a practical overview of the subject matter.
Below is the assignment I submitted. The Bed Time Alarm idea was described briefly in a previous post that talked about the handful of other rewirements I have actually embraced into my life as habits. I had been doing some of them already, or didn’t find them hard to embrace. However, there is a lot more details here, including rationale and measurements, which all good goals should contain to determine progress and/or success.
With this assignment, I have finally completed the course… and happier for it! Yay!
I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this course to anybody who cares about their happiness and wants to become happier. A slightly more detailed review is here, plus you can view my posts about the course to see what else was done and how it impacted me, along with other thoughts.
My Bed Time Alarm
The rewirement I chose to make into a habit was getting more sleep, and on a more consistent basis. I strove to increase my time in bed, and hopefully sleep that comes with it, but is harder to track. I wanted to increase my time in bed throughout the week from an average of 6.5 hours a night to 7.5 hours a night, with fewer nights at less than 7 hours. I am a night owl type who often loses track of time, or tries to get more done each night before going to bed. I often end up getting 6.5 hours or less in bed on nights before work days (Sunday-Thursday), then have to catch up on Friday and Saturday nights because my body demands it rather than me imposing it to meet quota. That’s not good for my health when my body has to demand it on weekends. I’ve been challenged to make this change because on days when I lacked sleep, I could still get through work quite well, leaving no real consequence for motivation.
In brainstorming what I needed to help me to accomplish my goal through habit formation, I realized it was not only some form of notification, but that it needed to persist because I often have a clock very visible to me. If what I were doing were on the computer, there is one practically staring back at me. I wasn’t challenged to get to bed sooner because I didn’t know the time. I just forgot about it quickly enough, sometimes several times over, or tried to push through with another little task thinking a few more minutes wouldn’t matter. Sometimes it was only a few minutes, but sometimes it was not, or another little task got squeezed in. Then I would go to bed in a semi-aroused state from having crunched through one or several tasks under time pressure at the end of the night, and would not fall asleep easily even if I were a little tired.
Outside of the persistent notification described, I vowed to report my time in bed, total and fluctuation, once a week to friends on Facebook to help me be more accountable to my goal. Nobody on Facebook, or otherwise, would want to know or care to see my daily time in bed updates. As for real life, I don’t see enough friends during the week, on a consistent basis, to feel ashamed if not accountable. Those friends would also be my closest, to whom I’d have to do a lot more than miss on some sleep goal to be ashamed. Nobody was willing to take up the idea with me so weekly Facebook updates was going to have to be it.
I employed technology to help me to accomplish my goal through habit formation. I set a “bed time alarm” on my Google Home Assistant on Sunday through Thursday nights at 11:15 PM, 45 minutes before midnight when I had been pursuing my personal interests until, generally, before winding down and getting ready for bed. Being in bed at midnight would mean I could get at least 7 hours in bed on work nights. Anything beyond that would be a bonus. I set the alarm 45 minutes in advance of the midnight last resorts target because it’s not always convenient for me to just stop what I’m doing where I am at. Theoretically, I could most nights. It would not have a lot of consequence besides annoyance of inconvenient places to stop, and pick up again next time, like mid-chapter in a book or halfway done sewing something. However, given this were a well-being course, and I like to be happy, putting myself through that routine most nights would defeat the greater well-being outcome of these rewirements.
Two key features with my Google Home Assistant made things easier for me. First is that it can be programmed throughout the week, rather than nightly where I’d have to remember to turn it on or off for some nights. Second is its elevator music tone. It’s not annoying, but it will keep on playing until I tell it to turn off, which I won’t do until I’m ready to go brush my teeth. It’s a constant reminder I am into bed time that doesn’t drive me crazy, but makes me fully aware the longer it goes that the more I should find a relatively convenient place to stop what I were doing, even if not the most convenient of places. The elevator music is not that pleasant that I could ignore or listen to “forever”. It is quite a nice balance for time before it starts to become a little annoying, but not too annoying like me stopping dead in my tracks at whatever activity I happen to be doing when the alarm goes off.
After 6 weeks, 2 from the class from when I first tried to tackle this and 4 from this assignment, I’m delighted to say my experiment has turned out to be a great success. I still have the occasional night where I missed my be in bed by midnight deadline, 3 during the 6 weeks with only 1 in the past 4 weeks. However, on those occasions, I made a conscious decision soon after the alarm went off that I was going to take whatever time needed to get to where I wanted to be. I knew it wasn’t going to be much more than an hour, if that, so that I would be in bed soon enough after midnight if I weren’t. I also knew that with my more consistent sleep than before, I could certainly absorb the lack of sleep that night that would still be more time in bed, at least on most of my Sunday to Thursday nights from before. Getting a bit more sleep each night has not been a problem so I knew I could really absorb those rare nights before a work day when I am in bed past midnight now.
I averaged 7.25 hours of time in bed per night for Sunday to Thursday nights during the past 4 weeks. It was less than the 7.5 hours weekly average, but I easily made up for it on the weekends. I would only need an extra hour either Friday or Saturday nights into the morning after, though I don’t limit myself to that my body wanted more. I also made up for sleep below my average on my own terms rather than my body demanding it, which is a lot healthier than if I had to give in a lot like before. I don’t care to set my bed time alarm earlier, though, to 11 PM, say, to get that 7.5 hours per night, because I like my evening time, especially late evening when I feel I do my best work and thinking. I am feeling better, as in fewer days feeling a bit tired, not to mention yawning, from lack of sleep. This routine seems to work fine, without me adapting to the alarm. There is the possibility to change the alarm that I will take up should I find I adapt to the alarm and start ignoring it.
As for my new increased sleep time cutting into my time I once had to pursue all my interests, possibly causing me a little “stress” for having to curb my zest to progress that is a Signature Strength for me, I prioritized time to my interests more honestly than I did before. In doing so, I actually embraced a suggestion that wasn’t really a rewirement since it did not apply to everybody. I reduced my social media time and prioritized what I did on it to free up time that weren’t of the greatest value. I tend to use social media to enlighten me with aggregations of news stories on topics I enjoy learning about, with Curiosity being my #2 Signature Strength. However, a lot of that was just for pure enjoyment rather than having a lot of practical life impact. Instead of going through the list to read just whatever I want each day, that sometimes took up a lot of time before I realized it, now I just pick out a small group of stories I would read that day that I thought would have bigger impact, or most interest if not a lot of impact, to me. I would also flag a small group to consider for the near future, like on the weekend when I’m not as worried about time rationing within an evening. This not only kept my reading time down each evening, but also gave me time to rethink whether I’d want to read some of those stories flagged later. I have found I didn’t feel the need to read about 2 of every 3 flagged for later reading. With the stories I read usually being of interest to others, in my opinion, I shared them and end up in discussions with some people over them that also took up time. With fewer stories read, and another commitment to share less, focusing on the biggest stories and other things I wanted to share, I have also cut time spent there.
Overall, I am feeling better, and functioning more efficiently, from my increased time in bed rewirement that has led to more, and more consistent, sleep. I rarely have to push it a bit on work days when I am a little tired from lack of sleep now, and I haven’t lost my personal time due to more efficient use of it. In taking the Happiness Index test at the end of the course, I ended up happier than about 86 percent of those who had taken the test, being in the 87th percentile. I would say that’s a significant increase than being happier than 76 percent of those who had taken the test when I started the course two and a half months ago. Despite the jump being just a mere 10% to some, I realize it’s a diminishing curve sort of situation we have here. If I started happier than none or just 1% of all those who took the test, it probably wouldn’t take much to get me past the first 10% of people, like the amount of studying time it takes to improve get 10% on exam about something which you know nothing of and would have gotten 0% without any studying. However, to improve from a score of 77% to 87%, that takes quite a bit more time compared to those first 10%. That’s passing a lot of pretty happy people! Realizing this increases my appreciation for what this course has done for me, and will continue to do. It’s a form of gratitude, and I hear that’s a pretty good thing for happiness as well!
To see more posts related to the Science of Well-being course, please click here.
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