Who’s the Boss? Turns out it’s my smart watch!

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Melissa Maldonado am Strand in Puerto Rico

Check your rings!
Three of the cringe-worthiest words in my digitally-dictated “smart” life. It’s the reminder that pops up about midday if I haven’t progressed as far as predicted with my daily goals.
Even though it’s ultimately just measuring me against myself – how I’m faring today versus my average – it always feels a bit judgmental. Like my watch expects better of me. Like it knows that I’m not trying as hard as I could be. And though I know that just a few clicks would turn off all notifications, there is something deeply gratifying about complying. Like some sort of primal, schoolgirl-esque satisfaction at performing my best and basking in the praise. Or in this case, a red, blue, and green laudatory firework display once all my goals have been reached. Go me!
But my watch is far more than my angry coach and personal cheerleader.
The fact is that my life, and most of our lives, are strictly governed and prescribed by far less aggrandizing accolades and far more pressing demands than any watch could make. Whether we’re the parents who have to get our kids to daycare, the employee stuck behind a computer for eight hours, the flight attendant on the redeye, there are people and circumstances that force us to adapt our lives to a schedule. One that might not necessarily be in tune with our own natural pace and rhythm. And one that might have us so wrapped up in what we need to do for everyone else that we completely lose sight of what we need to do for ourselves.
As intuitive as it seems, and as mechanical as it is, most of us simply do not breathe enough. Sure you’re getting enough oxygen if you haven’t collapsed to the floor while reading this. But the shallow and hollow breaths that we tend to take all day really only do just that: keep us from collapsing to the floor.
Now I’m all in favor of breathing enough to stay alive. But it is those deep full breaths we forget to take while we’re so busy with life that do all the good stuff. They’re like a deep organ massage helping to improve our digestion, lower our stress levels and blood pressure, and reduce cortisol levels. You know cortisol. It’s our body’s natural stress hormone. It’s important and good. But too much of it is comes with a host of negative health effects. You can spend time researching them all – anxiety, depression, digestive issues –  but it’s time that would be better spent breathing!
So my watch is actually serving the noblest of causes: making sure I take care of me.
I recently spent a couple of weeks in paradise. Salty air, sea breeze, island life. Aside from my regular breathing reminders, my watch only peeped with new rewards. First outdoor swim. New Move Record. Move Goal 200%. New Exercise Record.
Why the silence? It turns out that my body knows exactly what it needs when it’s not being controlled by work, schedules, and deadlines. It easily fell into its natural tempo, giving me impulses when it was time to move or stand or strap on my goggles and dive in. It was starved for nothing. My body had equilibrated. Chances are I didn’t even need those Breathereminders. At any rate, the need to take a deep breath seemed far less acute than usual.
Obviously the best solution would be a long-term escape to Eden! That might compel me to part ways with my bossy watch. But until I can turn that dream into my new reality, I’ll keep letting my watch remind me to make my basic needs a priority.
Time to stand!



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