How To Train Your Human: Part I

How To Train Your Human: Designing For Healthier Habits

Meet Joe. He’s in his mid 30s, and has 2 kids. Trying to watch his waistline, he decides he wants to lose 20 pounds. He buys the latest in wearables and the best in fitness apps to track his food and exercise. He tracks religiously for the first week and manages to lose a few pounds. But by week 2, he’s less excited. And by the end of the month, he completely stops and he gains back the pounds. He’s unhappy about how he looks, and blames himself for failure. So, why is it so hard for Joe to change his behaviours? Because 45% of the decisions we make each day are habits, which we do without much thought . Cues, such as boredom, hunger, an activity, a time, or an emotion trigger us to do certain actions or routines. When we complete that routine, we get a physical or an emotional reward. Doing this often enough gets us into a habit forming loop. Let’s take look at Joe again. Say, Joe wants to go to the gym after work. But when he gets home (cue), he sits in front of the TV (routine) and he feels happy and relaxed (reward). By having repeated this cycle everyday, Joe associates the cue of coming home to watching TV and feeling relaxed. This pattern becomes etched in his neural pathway, becoming a hardwired habit over time. That is why it is so hard for Joe to change his habits. Changing habits is possible, but it takes conscious and repeated effort. How can technology help? Technology has the ability to engage with users on an intimate level. As designers of technology, we have the opportunity to influence our users, beyond just prompting new behaviours. Done right, our products have the potential to […]