I spent 75 days completely in solutide during the first national lockdown in March 2020. During this time, I recorded 91 days worth of raw personal datasets and made a series data visulisations from everything I had collected – from how many times I went outside, to how many people I interacted from (both online and in person). The overarching motive was to see how these factors affected my mental and physical welbeing during a time when all other external factors were removed. I knew that this lockdown was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I wanted to document as much as
While this unnatural environment could have a huge impact on anyone’s mental health, it also seemed like an opportunity to understand how I might take charge of my own wellbeing by understanding what factors within my control make me happy.
The power of visualising this data has revealed patterns and trends about myself that I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t have visualised them how I did. Seeing the patterns emerge I now have a clearer idea of the key things that positively impact my mental wellbeing: regular meditation, time in solitude, and tangible creative projects. Going forward, I have actively sort after these three things to help cope in stressful times.
Over the 91 days, I used Google Sheets to document a variety of datasets. These include:
- The month and year
- Whether I showered, got dressed, or meditated
- Type of exercise and distance
- Online and face-to-face human interaction
- Mental and physical health
When I started I didn’t know how long the lockdown was going to go on for, so I documented right up until some of the UK rules started to ease. I moved into a house-share 15 days before I stopped collecting data which provided a small control measure.
Near the end of the data collection I started to sketch how I thought visualising it could look. From 91 days combined into one graph, to 3 separate posters depicting the 3 different months. I often sketch first as it gives me the freedom to imagine what is possible without the restrictions and limitations of my computer. It’s instructive to look back after your data-viz is complete to study your journey and thought process.
After sketches, I used Adobe Illustrator to piece together the project. I didn’t use any data visualisation tools for this data-viz as I didn’t want to limit myself with constraints.
Once I’m happy with my designs, I will typically share them with close colleagues and friends to check if they make sense, are readable from a design and narrative perspective, and that the back end of the data is correct.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of the project, was physically living out the data as I was recording it. Normally, you receive a pre-made data set on something that is fairly removed from your life. This project however, included recording some of the most difficult and intimate moments during a time that was extremely stressful and overwhelming. Physically visualising it was to reveal private habits about one of the toughest historic moments in time to an unknown audience – pretty daunting, but my hope was to inspire others to also consider what coping mechanisms are good for their well-being.
What can others learn from this project?
My hope is that other journalists and information designers would see this data visualisation and be inspired to consider what coping mechanisms are good for their well-being. Though it contains such a personal perspective to my lockdown experience, my goal is that others would be drawn to compose their own self-gathered data projects, to visualise such life changing moments in time to look back and reflect upon.